Libyan rebels: NATO bombs camel weapons caravan

AP News
Posted: Aug 05, 2011 8:46 PM
Libyan rebels: NATO bombs camel weapons caravan

A Libyan rebel commander said Saturday that his forces have unconfirmed reports that NATO struck and destroyed a caravan of camels carrying weapons from neighboring Chad.

Abdullah Aitha, who commands rebels fighting in the southeastern Kufra region, said the caravan was made up of hundreds of camels and carried heavy caliber machine guns, mortars and ammunition.

He said the air strike came on Friday evening in a desert 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Chad border while the caravan was headed for the city of Sebha, 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of the capital Tripoli. Sebha is a key Gadhafi stronghold deep in the country's southwestern deserts where much of the Libyan leader's loyal troops hail from.

"The camels are totally burned and the weapons are all destroyed," he told The Associated Press.

NATO could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier on Friday, a rebel commander said his forces had also received unconfirmed reports that Moammar Gadhafi's youngest son has been killed in a NATO air strike Friday on the western town of Zlitan.

Mohammed al-Rijali in the rebel's de facto capital of Benghazi said that Khamis Gadhafi was among 32 troops killed in a NATO strike on a government operations center in Zlitan.

But in Tripoli, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said Khamis is alive and spoke to Libyan government officials Friday to confirm his well-being.

"He is OK and alive, and they (reports of death) are just lies," Kaim told The Associated Press.

He said the rebels spread reports of Khamis' death to "distract attention" from the killing late last month of rebel military chief Abdel-Fattah Younis.

The rebel leadership has insisted Younis' assassination was the work of the Gadhafi regime, but several witnesses say Younis was killed by fellow rebels. The slaying has fueled concerns about unity within the revel movement nearly six months after the revolt began.

NATO said in a statement that it was aware of the reports that Khamis had been killed, but it did not confirm his death. It said alliance strikes on Thursday night hit an ammunition depot and military police facility in Zlitan, which is the main front of fighting between rebels and Gadhafi's troops, 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

This isn't the first time Khamis has been reported dead by rebel forces.

In late March, rumors circulated that he was killed in an airstrike, only to be shown days later on state television attending a celebration in his honor at his father's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli.

Gadhafi's regime and Libya's rebels have been locked in a stalemate on various fronts across the country, despite a NATO bombing campaign directed against government forces. The rebels control eastern Libya and pockets in the west, while Gadhafi clings to the rest, including the capital of Tripoli.