Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, said the Libyan government would not be cowed.
“The bombing which targeted Moammar Gaddafi's office today . . . will only scare children. It's impossible that it will make us afraid or give up or raise the white flag,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run JANA news agency.
“You, NATO, are waging a losing battle because you are backed by traitors and spies,” he said. “History has proved that no state can rely on them to win.”
Reporters in Tripoli first heard two huge explosions and saw a red flash from the direction of Gaddafi’s compound. There was also a third, smaller explosion, which officials said was an attack on a state television broadcasting facility in Tripoli, after which the signal from all three channels went down briefly.
Later, reporters were taken to see the scene of the main attack and shown a destroyed building that officials said contained offices and a library used by Gaddafi. Its roof was caved in, many of its walls had collapsed, and shattered masonry, twisted metal and other debris were strewn over a large area.
A fire engine trained water on part of the building, while civilian supporters of the government, let in with members of the media, clambered on the rubble, chanted pro-Gaddafi slogans and waved their green flags as thick cement dust swirled through the air.
An adjacent building, where Gaddafi met South African President Jacob Zuma and a delegation of four other African presidents looking to broker a peace deal earlier this month, was also badly damaged, with the wreckage of chandeliers, furniture and picture frames spread amid the rubble.
It appeared doubtful that Gaddafi would have frequented such an obvious target, given the threat from NATO warplanes. In any case, he is believed to have built an underground bunker complex at his residence. He has rarely been seen in public since coalition airstrikes began on March 19, two days after a U.N. Security Council resolution authorized military intervention against the Gaddafi regime to protect civilians.
Ibrahim said Gaddafi was working as usual from a safe place in Tripoli, was very healthy and “in high spirits”.
NATO has been regularly aiming for the government’s command and control facilities in recent weeks, as part of what it describes as a campaign to steadily and deliberately degrade “the ability of the Gaddafi regime to launch and sustain attacks against his own people.”
In a hint of the possible dual nature of the compound that was targeted, journalists were not allowed to see an adjacent building that was also damaged by the strike, a building that one bystander said was used by the military.
The attack was also not far from another building within the complex that was destroyed at the start of the air campaign, which the alliance described at the time as another command and control center.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, reporters were also taken to the scene of another twin airstrike, which appeared to hit an underground bunker complex just outside Bab al-Aziziyah.
When the bombs struck just after midnight on Monday, the initial reaction among government minders and sympathizers at the main hotel where journalists are staying was a mixture of shock and anger.
But it swiftly turned back to the usual defiance, with government minders chanting pro-Gaddafi slogans as they escorted the press to the site in a bus. At Bab al-Aziziyah, some people screamed when the bombs struck, and many left afterward, one witness said. But others regrouped in front of state television cameras to resume their singing and chanting.
Staff writers Leila Fadel in Benghazi, Libya, and Mary Beth Sheridan and Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this report.