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Gaddafi faces probe into Libya massacre claims

Muammar Gaddafi is facing a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after hundreds of protesters were killed in the uprising against his rule that broke out last month.

The ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has concluded that there is sufficient evidence to investigate Colonel Gaddafi and members of his inner circle, |including his sons, although he mentioned only the Libyan leader by name.

The prosecutor said the court intended “to put them on notice: if forces under their command commit crimes, they could be criminally responsible. No-one has the authority to attack and massacre civilians”.

Meanwhile, rebels pursuing Gaddafi’s retreating troops have set up a new frontline in regime-held territory in preparation for an offensive which they claim will change the course of the conflict.

After repulsing an attack on Brega, a strategic town and oil production centre, the rebel forces have moved on to Agheila, 40 miles further west towards Sirte, Colonel Gaddafi's birthplace and a loyalist stronghold.

Speaking in the capital Tripoli, yesterday Saif al-Islam, the son of the Libyan leader, maintained that the assault was effectively a psychological measure aimed to drive the rebels away from the oil installations.

“The bombs were just to frighten them to go away, not to kill them,” he said. “I am talking about the harbour and the oil refinery there. Nobody would allow the militia (rebels) to control Brega. It is like allowing someone to control Rotterdam harbour in Holland.”

Fifteen people, including a British citizen, Khaled Attghdi, a father-of-seven from Manchester, died in the attack and another 43 were injured. Children and the elderly were among the victims and Brega remains in the control of the rebels.

Elsewhere, Foreign Secretary William Hague denied last night that the Government was out of step with key British allies over Libya after the US Defense Secretary warned against “loose talk” about military intervention.

Following talks in Paris with his French counterpart, Alain Juppe, Mr Hague said the UK was “absolutely in a line” with the US and France on the possible imposition of a military no-fly zone.

Mr Hague said Britain, France and the US were working closely together on contingency planning for options such as a no-fly zone.

“None of these options are pain-free or simple but, as the Prime Minister has said, if people were being attacked in huge numbers, then it is unlikely the world will just stand idly by,” he said.

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