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Gaddafi's son 'dead in suicide air strike on his HQ'

There was mystery today over the fate of one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons, with reports that he had been killed during an air strike.

According to Arab newspapers, the dictator's sixth son, Khamis, was killed when a Libyan suicide pilot deliberately crashed his jet into Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound on Saturday.

The Arabian Business News claimed Khamis died from his burns later in a Tripoli hospital. The reports have been denied by the Libyan government.

British Typhoon Eurofighters took off to fly their first combat missions while policing the Libyan no-fly zone. while ground forces loyal to Gaddafi were still fighting to gain and hold territory.

As Libyan anti-aircraft guns went into action in the capital for the third night, suggesting that the coalition was still some distance from the effective no-fly zone that it is aiming to achieve, Gaddafi's forces launched a fresh onslaught on Misrata, the last rebel stronghold in western Libya.

Residents said water supplies had been cut off and government troops had encircled the city.

One resident suggested that the pro-Gaddafi forces were deploying human shields from nearby towns in the city, and claimed that when civilians had gathered in the centre of the town to confront the forces, they "started shooting at them with artillery and guns. The hospital told us that at least nine people were killed."

The British RAF backed up the claim that human shields were being deployed throughout Libya, admitting that a 3,000-mile mission to bomb Libya was aborted minutes from the targets on Sunday night because of reports that civilians were in the area.

In Cairo yesterday, Libyans infuriated by the international military intervention blocked the path of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, after his meeting with the Arab League secretary-general, Amr Moussa, who has been increasingly restive about the western attacks to impose a no-fly zone that his organisation backed 11 days ago.

Meanwhile, China called again for an end to fighting, expressing "deep concern" at reported civilian casualties and warning of a "humanitarian disaster".

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's air defences were being protected last night by crowds of civilians who, through a mixture of fervour and fear, have become human shields in Libya.

"Thousands" of men and women showing support for their leader were at airports, military facilities and other sites across the country, according to a government spokesman in Tripoli.

hnews@herald.ie