Italy said on Friday Muammar Gaddafi has very likely left the Libyan capital and probably been wounded by NATO air strikes, a report that Tripoli immediately dismissed as "nonsense".
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he heard the report on Gaddafi from the bishop of Tripoli, Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli.
"I tend to give credence to the comment of the bishop of Tripoli, Monsignor Martinelli, who has been in close contact over recent weeks, when he told us that Gaddafi is very probably outside Tripoli and is probably also wounded. We don't know where or how," Frattini said.
NATO allies including the United States, Britain and France are bombing Libya as part of a U.N. mandate to protect civilians and they say they will not stop until the Libyan leader's 41-year rule ends.
There was no independent confirmation of Frattini's report. The Libyan government poured scorn on it.
"It's nonsense," Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said in Tripoli. "The leader is in high morale. He's in good spirits. He is leading the country day by day. He hasn't been harmed at all."
Libyan state television said a NATO strike on the eastern city of Brega on Friday killed at least 16 civilians and wounded up to 40. It showed footage of at least nine bodies with multiple wounds, wrapped in blankets at an unknown location.
A NATO official in Naples said they did not have any information on the report.
Missile strikes by Gaddafi forces stationed in positions around the rebel-held city of Misrata killed 10 and injured 20, a doctor said.
"Five homes were destroyed, two babies were killed. Their mother was injured and their 4-year-old sister is being operated on now and risks amputation of one of her legs," the doctor, who gave his name as Khalid, said by telephone from Misrata.
His account could not be independently verfied.
Gaddafi's forces have been pushed out of the port city since rebels seized the airport this week but Misrata is vulnerable to missile attacks from the east and west, he said. "The danger we face now is rockets fired from far out, 25 km or further."
Food, fuel and medical equipment are in short supply in the rebel-controlled Western Mountains region, where the main delivery route is under threat from Gaddafi forces.
Doctors have been forced to open makeshift medical theatres and say they are struggling to treat the wounded
The war has forced thousands of Libyans to flee, many across perilous waters. Migrants trying to escape by sea have a one in 10 chance of dying in a Mediterranean crossing in appalling conditions on overcrowded, unseaworthy boats, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.
Around 12,000 migrants have arrived at reception centres in Malta and Italy, while an estimated 1,200 are missing, presumed dead.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 14 Mayıs 2011, 10:36