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Gaddafi in Russia in 2008 Alexei Druzhinin/AP/Press Association Images

International Criminal Court seeks arrest of Gaddafi over Libyan 'crimes against humanity'

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked that judges order the arrest of Gaddafi, his son and his intelligence chief as rebels say they have made gains in the western city of Misrata.

THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL Court (ICC) prosecutor has asked judges to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and two other senior members of his regime, accusing them of committing crimes against humanity by targeting civilians in a crackdown against rebels.

The move by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Monday came as rebel fighters inside the Libyan city of Misrata said that they had driven Gaddafi’s forces from another key point on the port city’s outskirts, but there were conflicting reports on whether the rebels would advance farther for fear of opening too wide a front.

Moreno-Ocampo said he was seeking warrants against Gaddafi as well as his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi. The three, he said, ordered, planned and participated in illegal attacks.

He said Gaddafi’s forces attacked civilians in their homes, shot at demonstrators protesting his 40 years of rule with live ammunition, shelled funeral processions and deployed snipers to kill people leaving mosques.

Judges must now evaluate the evidence before deciding whether to confirm the charges and issue international arrest warrants.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said he had no immediate comment.

If the arrest warrants are issued they are seen in Libya as giving NATO more justification to target Gaddafi in its campaign of air strikes. Although NATO spokesmen say they are not trying to assassinate Gaddafi, the nature of their strikes suggests they are trying to hit the Libyan leader.

Arrest warrants also could complicate efforts to find a haven for Gaddafi as a part of any negotiated settlement to the Libyan crisis.

Because the United Nations Security Council ordered the ICC investigation, all UN member states would be obliged to arrest him if he ventures into their territory.

Asked why he has not launched similar investigations into other Arab uprisings, Moreno-Ocampo said that no such action had been requested by the Security Council, as it was in the case of Libya.

The rebels applauded the prosecutor’s action as their forces appeared to have expanded their hold on Misrata, the only major opposition stronghold in western Libya.

Most of Libya’s rebel forces are concentrated in the east.

Abdel Salam, a rebel militia fighter, told The Associated Press on Monday that opposition forces were able to advance on the location after NATO bombings in recent days.

Reporters have had a difficult time reaching the city, and it was not possible to verify the claims independently.

Misrata has been the focus of an international aid effort to help thousands of civilians caught in the fighting. Some 1,000 people have been killed in the two-month siege of the rebel-held enclave by Gaddafi’s forces.

In Benghazi, the eastern city where the rebel administration is based, the opposition’s military spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Bani, told the AP that rebels defeated two brigades of Gaddafi forces that were based in the city of Zlitan, just 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli, in weekend battles.

Human Rights activists also welcomed Moreno-Ocampo’s move.

- AP