- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Since the rebel takeover of Tripoli, evidence has been mounting that Col. Moammar Gadhafi may have lied about the death of his adopted baby daughter, Hana, in a 1986 U.S. airstrike.

The strike hit Col. Gadhafi’s home in his Tripoli compound, Bab al-Aziziya, in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored bombing of a Berlin nightclub earlier that same year that killed two U.S. servicemen. At the time, Col. Gadhafi showed American journalists a picture of a dead baby and claimed it was his adopted daughter, Hana — the first public mention that she even existed.

Diplomats almost immediately questioned the claim, but Col. Gadhafi kept the story alive through the years.

Then, when investigations into the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing pointed to a Libyan hand in the attack, some theorized that Col. Gadhafi had ordered it to avenge Hana’s death in the U.S. airstrike.

But when Libyan rebels took over Tripoli and Bab al-Aziziya last week, they found a room in Col. Gadhafi’s home with Hana’s birth certificate and pictures of a young woman with “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.

And on Tuesday, Swiss officials confirmed that Hana’s name briefly had 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 wasn’t killed in the airstrike.

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

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

Adding to the mystery, two AP photographs from the 1990s show an adolescent girl identified in captions as Col. 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. Col. Gadhafi’s only biological daughter, Aisha, stands on Mr. Mandela’s other side, and Col. Gadhafi’s wife, Safiya, is next to the girl identified as Hana.

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

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

Last week, after rebels stormed the Bab al-Aziziya compound, where Col. 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

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