NEW: Libyan deputy PM tweets apology for reporting misinformation
At least 42 people from both sides are reported killed in the Bani Walid clashes
Gadhafi's spokesman says he is not even inside the country
Ibrahim says the report is to distract people from the Bani Walid fighting
The former spokesman for late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi denied a report Saturday that he was captured by Libyan special forces, saying in an audio message that he is not even in the country.
Moussa Ibrahim said the report was simply an attempt to distract people from the government’s alleged crimes in the city of Bani Walid, a former Gadhafi stronghold that has been the scene of clashes in recent days.
Ibrahim was captured in the town of Tarhouna and that he was being taken to the capital of Tripoli, 40 miles to the north, according to the prime minister’s media office.
Two sources close to Ibrahim told CNN in recent months that the former Gadhafi spokesman was not in Libya, and Ibrahim said the same in the seven-minute video posted to his Facebook page late Saturday.
“We are currently outside of Libya and we have no communication with Bani Walid,” Ibrahim said in Arabic. “We are not even close to Bani Walid.”
It is the second time this month that Ibrahim has denied a government report of his capture.
Official sources also said Saturday that one of Gadhafi’s sons, Khamis Gadhafi, was killed after fighting in Bani Walid.
Later, Libya Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur tweeted: “I apologize for reporting the news of Moussa Ibrahim’s capture and the death of Khamis Gadhafi , although I was informed of this by official sources it was not definitively confirmed.”
News of his Khamis Gadhafi’s death prompted thousands of residents in Tripoli to go out on the streets to celebrate, the state-run Libyan Arab News Agency reported.
Omar Hmaidan, the spokesman for the General National Congress, said Khamis Gadhafi was captured in the Bani Walid clashes and injured, and that he died after being taken to a hospital in Misrata, about 60 miles away. Libya’s deputy prime minister, Mustafa AbuShagur, said Khamis Gadhafi was killed in Bani Walid and that his body now lies in a Misrata hospital.
Khamis Gadhafi’s death could not be independently confirmed, however. There were no images of his capture or death, and he was already reported to have been killed in August last year in a battle with rebel forces between Tarhouna and Bani Walid.
Moammar Gadhafi was killed a year ago after he was shot in the head while being captured by rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte, Libya. His dictatorship lasted 42 years.
The current clashes in Bani Walid have been going on since Wednesday between army troops and pro-government militias circling the city and anti-government fighters inside.
As fighting intensified Saturday, those in Bani Walid reported a worsening humanitarian situation, with at least 20 people, including women and children, killed and 75 people wounded. Local spokespeople also said shelling destroyed 40 homes.
Outside the city, 22 members of the Libyan national army and a pro-government militia were killed in the fighting Saturday and 200 others were wounded, some critically, medical sources in Misrata told CNN.
The head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed his concern Saturday about the developments and the growing civilian casualties from reported indiscriminate shelling. Tarek Mitri also said a mediated settlement is urgently needed.
The Bani Walid fighting stems from the death of a Libyan revolutionary fighter credited with capturing Moammar Gadhafi in October last year.
The fighter, Omran Shaaban, and two others were kidnapped near Bani Walid in July. He was released two months later, at which point he was in bad physical shape; despite being transferred to a hospital in France, Shaaban died September 24 of the effects of gunshot wounds.
The day after his death, the General National Congress authorized the government to arrest those responsible for his kidnapping and torture and to use force if necessary.
The National Congress also called for the release of others being detained in Bani Walid, giving those in the city 10 days to comply.
Army troops and militias surrounded Bani Walid more than two weeks ago, waiting for orders to enter if they didn’t receive a list of those wanted for Shaaban’s kidnapping and death.
One of the pro-government militias outside the city – a faction from Misrata, which has a long-standing rivalry with Bani Walid – managed to take positions overlooking the city early Wednesday. But they then shelled the city, killing seven and wounding about 100 others, according to a spokesman for the Bani Walid fighters.
Those fighters responded with mortar rounds that killed four rivals, Misrata medical sources said.
CNN’s Amir Ahmed and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.