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Daughter Gadhafi said died in US bombing apparently alive

/ 05:59 AM September 02, 2011

Tripoli, Libya—Since the rebel takeover of Tripoli, evidence has been mounting that Moammar Gadhafi may have lied about the death of his adopted baby daughter Hana in a 1986 US air strike.

The strike hit Gadhafi’s home in his Tripoli compound, Bab al-Aziziya, in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored bombing of a Berlin nightclub earlier that year that killed two US servicemen.

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At the time, Gadhafi showed American journalists a picture of a dead baby and said it was his adopted daughter Hana—the first public mention that she even existed.

Diplomats almost immediately questioned the claim. But Gadhafi kept the story alive through the years.

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Then, when investigations into the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, pointed to a Libyan hand in the attack, some theorized that Gadhafi had ordered it to avenge Hana’s death in the US air strike.

But when Libyan rebels took over Tripoli and Bab al-Aziziya last week, they found a room in Gadhafi’s home with Hana’s birth certificate and pictures of a young woman with the name “Hana” written on the back, possible indications that she lived well beyond infancy. A Tripoli hospital official surfaced, saying Hana worked for him as a surgeon up until the rebels came to town.

Common knowledge

And on Tuesday, Swiss officials confirmed that Hana’s name had briefly appeared earlier this year on a Swiss government document listing the names of senior Libyan figures targeted for sanctions.

Many Libyans believe Hana was never killed and talked about her existence openly.

Adel Shaltut, a Libyan diplomat at the United Nations in Geneva, said it was common knowledge that Hana Gadhafi wasn’t killed in the air strike.

“All Libyans knew from the very beginning that it’s a lie,” he told The Associated Press, saying that Hana was married and had children.

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However, some in Libya believed that after Hana’s death, Gadhafi adopted another daughter and gave her the same name in a memorial tribute.

Adding to the mystery, two Associated Press (AP) photographs from the 1990s show an adolescent girl identified in captions as Gadhafi’s daughter Hana. In one of them from 1999, she is standing next to South African President Nelson Mandela, with his arm around her, during a family visit to Cape Town. Gadhafi’s only biological daughter, Aisha, stands on Mandela’s other side and Gadhafi’s wife Safiya is next to the girl identified as Hana.

In another AP photo from 1996, Gadhafi is seen wiping the face of a girl identified in the caption as his daughter Hana Gadhafi.

Commemorative festival

Despite these sightings of Hana, Gadhafi organized in 2006 an event called the “Hana Festival for Freedom and Peace” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of her death. Performers reportedly included Lionel Richie and Spanish tenor Jose Carreras.

Last week, after rebels stormed the Bab al-Aziziya compound where Gadhafi and family members lived, journalists saw a room in his home filled with stuffed animals, photos of a young woman with the name “Hana” written on the back in Arabic and a birth certificate of “Hana Gadhafi.”

Rebels touring the room told reporters that everyone in Libya knew that the daughter who the world thought was dead was, in fact, alive.

Hana’s current whereabouts are unknown. Her mother, sister Aisha and two brothers fled to Algeria on Monday, with their spouses and children. She was not identified among those who had left the country. Her father and brother Seif al-Islam, once the heir apparent to rule Libya, are believed to still be in Libya.

Nervous surgeon

Gassem Baruni, head of Tripoli Medical Center, said Hana worked for him as a surgeon before she disappeared on Friday.

“She was very tense and nervous as soon as the revolution started,” Baruni said. “She told me not to treat the rebels, but I told her:  ‘If we don’t treat everyone, it would be a crime.”’

The doctor said he used her influence to stock up the hospital with supplies and medicine, keeping the fact he was coordinating with rebels secret from her.

“I pretended that we needed the stuff to treat the Gadhafi troops,” Baruni said.

Mohammed Ammar, a Tripoli resident who said his cousin graduated with Hana from medical school last year, was among those who believe the death of Hana was a myth.

“It is not surprising he would lie about his own child’s death,” he said. “He is capable of killing a whole population, why not his own child?”

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TAGS: 1986 US air strike, Bab al-Aziziya, Hana Gadhafi, Tripoli
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