Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi cast doubt on Libyan reports that Muammar Gaddafi’s son and three grandchildren were killed in a Nato air strike, saying coalition forces believed the claim to be “propaganda”.
Mr Berlusconi told a late-night talk show yesterday that based on intelligence services, Saif al-Arab was not in Libya, but in another country. He did not elaborate.
According to ANSA news agency, he told state-run RAI: “It doesn’t check out with the coalition. It seems like it’s propaganda, and that the youngest son of Gaddafi isn’t in Libya but lives in another country.
“Even the case of the three grandchildren seems unfounded. This is the information from our services.”
Nato has never confirmed or denied the death, reported by Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, that Saif, 29, and three of Gaddafi’s grandchildren - all younger than 12 – were killed in a Nato air strike on the Libyan leader’s residential complex on April 30. Libyan officials said Gaddafi was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.
Nato has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gaddafi or other individuals.
Mr Berlusconi referred to Saif al-Arab as being Gaddafi’s youngest son but he is the second youngest, with son Khamis younger by some two years. At the time of the bombing, however, Libyan officials referred to Saif al-Arab as being Gaddafi’s youngest.
Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, is participating in the Nato air campaign and has allowed its air bases to be used by coalition forces.
Mr Berlusconi had for years called Gaddafi a friend and said he briefly considered resigning after Italy became increasingly drawn into the coalition campaign.