Africa

Nato 'cannot reach me', Gaddafi says

Col Muammar Gaddafi (8 March 2011)
Image caption A Libyan government spokesman said Col Gaddafi was in very good health and high spirits

Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has said he is in a place where Nato bombs "cannot reach", in an audio message broadcast on state television.

He also condemned as cowardly an attack on his compound in Tripoli on Thursday.

Libyan officials said the strike killed three people. Nato officials said a command-and-control bunker was hit.

Col Gaddafi's statement came after Italy's foreign minister said he had probably been wounded in an air strike and was believed to have left Tripoli.

Two loud explosions rocked the capital Tripoli on Friday night, as jets were heard overhead, witnesses said. There is no word on any damage.

'Good health... high spirits'

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he heard the report that Col Gaddafi was injured from the Roman Catholic bishop of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli.

"He told us that Gaddafi is very probably outside Tripoli and is probably also wounded. We don't know where or how," said Mr Frattini.

He also said international pressure was causing "the disintegration of the regime from the inside".

The Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told the BBC that he could not confirm that Bishop Martinelli had made the comments.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the report was "nonsense". He insisted Col Gaddafi was had not been harmed by any strikes and was "leading the country day by day" from Tripoli.

"The leader is in very good health, high morale and high spirits."

'Crusader cowards'

On Friday evening, state TV unexpectedly broadcast a message from Col Gaddafi which sought to prove that he was alive and well.

He thanked those outside Libya who had "expressed deep and strong concern, enthusiasm and love for me by carrying out all these contacts to enquire about my safety after hearing about the crusader, cowardly and treacherous missile attack" on the Bab al-Aziziya compound.

"I say to the crusader cowards that I live in a place that you cannot reach and kill me in it because I live in the hearts of the millions," he added.

"Immortality is for the martyrs, and death, infamy and disgrace are for the treacherous agents and their cowardly masters."

The fact that Col Gaddafi did not deliver his message in vision will fuel speculation that he may be injured, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Tripoli.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Christian Fraser was shown the aftermath of an apparent airstrike in Tripoli

Mr Ibrahim said that early on Thursday missiles had hit a spot near where Libyans, some with their children, gather at night to show their support for Col Gaddafi. He showed journalists a small park near one of the craters where children were playing on a carousel.

Nato said that in addition to the command-and-control bunker complex at Bab al-Aziziya, other targets on the same day included anti-aircraft missile launchers near Tripoli, and buildings and gun emplacements being used by government forces in their siege of the western city of Misrata.

State TV also reported that a Nato strike on the eastern city of Brega on Friday had hit a boarding house, killing 11 imams and wounding 45 people. It showed pictures of at least nine charred and disfigured bodies wrapped in blankets.

A government spokesman said the victims were part of a larger group who had travelled to the government-held town from across Libya seeking peace talks in rebel-held Benghazi.

But rebel officials in the eastern city Benghazi insisted there were no civilians at all in Brega, while a Nato spokesman said he did "not know any information about an attack or an incident in Brega".

'Systematic attacks'

Meanwhile, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that on Monday he would seek arrest warrants for three people considered most responsible for crimes against humanity in Libya. Diplomats said Col Gaddafi was likely to top the list.

Last week, he said forces loyal to Col Gaddafi were murdering and persecuting civilians in widespread and systematic attacks.

Following the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's uprising was sparked by February's arrest of a human rights campaigner in the eastern city of Benghazi that rapidly spread to other cities.

Rebel forces called on Col Gaddafi to relinquish his five-decade rule and open Libya up to a more democratic rule.

Nato said earlier this week that its planes had carried out 6,000 missions over Libya since its military operations began at the end of March.

The air strikes have helped secure rebels in their strongholds in eastern Libya, but observers say it remains unclear to what extent they have loosened Col Gaddafi's grip on the west of the country.

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