Monday, May 02, 2011

Western Embassies Attacked in Libya After Targeted Assassinations Against Gaddafi's Son, Grandchildren

Embassies in Libya attacked

By SIMON DENYER , Washington Post
Updated: May 2, 2011 - 12:04 AM

Mobs trashed the Western facilities after a NATO airstrike that reportedly killed Gadhafi family members

TRIPOLI, LIBYA - The U.S., British and Italian embassies were attacked and burned by angry mobs in the Libyan capital Sunday, hours after a NATO airstrike was reported to have killed one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons and three of his grandchildren.

Britain responded to the attack on its embassy and ambassador's residence, which were gutted, by expelling Libya's ambassador to London. The United Nations announced that it had temporarily withdrawn its 12 remaining international staff members from Tripoli and sent them to neighboring Tunisia. The withdrawal followed an attack on a U.N. building in Tripoli, empty at the time.

No one was hurt in any of the attacks. Western diplomats were withdrawn weeks ago.

"If true, we condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms," spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.

In Moscow, Russia condemned the NATO airstrike Saturday on Tripoli, describing it as a "disproportionate use of force."

Russia questioned NATO's assertion that the alliance was not targeting Gadhafi or members of his family and called for "an immediate cease-fire and political settlement."

The Libyan government said Gadhafi's son Seif al-Arab Gadhafi, 29, was at a gathering of relatives and friends when three missiles struck the family house just after 8 p.m. Saturday, causing huge explosions. The Libyan leader and his wife, Safiyah, were at the house but escaped unharmed, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said, calling the attack an assassination attempt.

In Brussels on Sunday, NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the reported deaths of Gadhafi's relatives remained unconfirmed. "We targeted a military command and control building with a precision strike," Romero said. "It was not targeted against any individual. It was a military target, clearly linked to the Gadhafi regime's systematic attacks on the civilian population."

Reporters were taken to the destroyed residence. There were no obvious signs of military command and control facilities, but there were signs that the buildings were being used as a residence. In a kitchen, rice, pasta, fish and stuffed peppers were on a stove, with a wall clock stopped at 8:08 p.m., the time of the attack. In the building, which took a direct hit, women's dresses were buried in the concrete debris.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, which has been at the forefront of the NATO campaign, told the BBC that the strike was in line with the U.N. mandate to prevent "a loss of civilian life by targeting Gadhafi's war-making machine."

NATO has been criticized for not doing enough to protect Libyan citizens and responded by stepping up attacks on what it says are Gadhafi's command and control centers, particularly in Tripoli.

But in rebel-held Misrata in western Libya, NATO has failed to prevent heavy shelling by pro-Gadhafi forces. On Sunday, Libyan government forces unleashed a fresh barrage of shells on the port, as a humanitarian ship was unloading. Eight people were killed in the city Sunday and 23 were wounded, rebel spokesman Mohamed Ali said via Skype.

The Libyan government had tried to lay antiship mines in Misrata harbor Friday and threatened to attack any ships entering Misrata port, including those carrying humanitarian aid, because rebels also are using the port to bring in arms, ammunition and weapons.

Emotions rose in Tripoli after the death of Gadhafi's son was announced.

Video taken on a mobile phone by the Tripoli resident showed a car destroyed by fire, windows smashed and huge fire marks on the outside walls of the British ambassador's residence. The witness said two police officers armed with Kalashnikovs at the gate had made no attempt to stop young men and children from entering and exploring the building.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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