Rebels Claim Gaddafi Son Killed in NATO Airstrike in Libya

Has NATO cleared the path for the rebels to overtake Gaddafi’s Tripoli stronghold?

A rebel spokesman has reported Friday that a NATO airstrike has killed Moammar Gaddafi’s youngest son Khamis, among 32 others.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Zawawi explained that the news of Khamis’s death was based on reports from spies within the ranks of Gaddafi’s forces, according to reports by The Tripoli Post,

The air strike took place in the town of Zlitan, a frontline town in the fight between rebel-controlled Misurata and Gaddafi’s forces in the capital Tripoli.

NATO said alliance strikes were carried out on Thursday and Friday which targeted an ammunition depot, a military police facility, and a government operations center in Zlitan.

In response to the Libyan government’s claims that the assault Thursday killed civilians, NATO has maintained that the air strike hit a “command and control site.”

A spokesman for NATO has reported: “We always take seriously allegations of civilian casualties and are looking into it, but we have no evidence at this stage that this was caused by an air strike.”

NATO has said it has been unable to confirm the reports that Khamis Gaddafi has been killed.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reported from Misrata that indications point towards “this not [being] a valid claim.”

Furthermore, a Libyan government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, told Reuters in Tripoli that the reports of Khamis’s death were false.

Khamis, who trained at a Russian military academy, serves as one of the main commanders of Gaddafi’s military forces.

“Khamis’s Brigade” is described as one of the most highly equipped and trained elite units in the Libyan military.

This is not the first time Khamis Gaddafi has been reported dead by rebel forces during the six-month long NATO supported uprising.

This week’s air strikes come as the latest in the civil war that has ravaged Libya since civil protests began on February 15, 2011. The uprising soon surged into a full-fledged civil war with the Libyan opposition fighting the government of Muammar al-Gaddafi for control of the state.

On March 17 the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing member states “to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas…while excluding an occupation force.”

The International Criminal Court announced on March 3 it would launch an investigation into war crimes committed by Gaddafi, his sons and his inner circle.

The coalition intervention then began on March 19.

If confirmed, the death of Khamis would come as a major blow to the Libyan government’s efforts to crush the rebels.

After expelling Gaddafi’s forces from Misrata, rebel forces have been attempting for weeks now to push westward and take Zlitan.

If the rebels were to claim Zlitan, the road would be opened to Gaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli.