- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — Since the rebel takeover of Tripoli, evidence has been mounting that 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 year that killed two U.S. servicemen.

At the time, Col. Gadhafi showed American journalists a picture of a dead baby and said 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 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, 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 the name “Hana” written on the back, possible indications that she lived well beyond infancy.

A Tripoli hospital official surfaced, saying she worked for him as a surgeon up until the rebels came to town.

And on Tuesday, Swiss officials confirmed that Hana Gadhafi’s name had appeared briefly earlier this year on a Swiss government document listing the names of senior Libyan figures targeted for sanctions.

Many Libyans believe she was never killed and talked about her existence openly.

Adel Shaltut, a Libyan diplomat at the U.N. in Geneva, said it was common knowledge that Hana Gadhafi wasn’t killed in the airstrike.

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

However, some in Libya believed that after Hana Gadhafi’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.

Despite these sightings of Hana Gadhafi, 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 Richie 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.

Hana Gahhafi’s current whereabouts are unknown. Her mother, sister Aisha and two brothers fled to Algeria on Monday, with their spouses and children. She was not identified among those who had left the country.

Her father and brother Seif al-Islam, once the heir apparent to rule Libya, are believed to still be in Libya.

Gassem Baruni, head of the Tripoli Medical Center, said Hana Gadhafi worked for him as a surgeon before she disappeared Friday.

“She was very tense and nervous as soon as the revolution started,” Mr. Baruni told the AP. “She told me not to treat the rebels, but I told her: ‘If we don’t treat everyone, it would be a crime.’ “

The doctor said he used her influence to stock up the hospital with supplies and medicine, keeping the fact he was coordinating with rebels secret from her.

“I pretended that we needed the stuff to treat the Gadhafi troops,” Mr. Baruni said.

The British Council confirmed that someone named Hana Gadhafi studied English at the British Council in Tripoli in 2007, and again in 2009.

“We can confirm that a student by the name of Hana Gadhafi did study English with us in Libya. However, we don’t have access to any documents as we don’t have access to our Tripoli office, which we had to leave earlier this year,” a spokesman told the AP. He spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with council policy.

“Our country director in Libya did query this, given reports of Hana Gadhafi’s death,” he said.

“The widely held belief in Libya at the time was that this was a different daughter, adopted by Col. Gadhafi after Hana’s death, and given the same name as a tribute. This is, in fact, a common practice in Libya as a memorial to a dead child.”

A Swiss government document earlier this year listed the names of senior Libyan figures who were to be targeted for sanctions briefly included Hana Gadhafi’s name, but it was quickly removed, Swiss officials said Tuesday. They were responding to questions by the AP.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Adrian Sollberger, said the list was revised to conform with sanctions imposed by the United Nations. He declined to say why someone with the name Hana Gadhafi had been on the original sanctions list, and whether Switzerland had evidence the Libyan leader’s daughter named Hana was alive.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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