The television station that broadcast Moammar Gaddafi's defiant radio speech after his compound was overrun is based not in Libya, but in Syria, and is owned by a controversial Iraqi once tied to the insurgency in Iraq who launched his TV career by airing videos of U.S. soldiers being blown up.
The al-Ourouba (Arabism) channel was quoted around the world after Gaddafi’s early morning outburst, in which the ousted Libyan leader vowed to fight back and called on Libyans to rush to the defense of their capital.
Listen to Gaddafi’s speech below:
Contacted in Damascus, former Iraqi lawmaker Mishan al-Jibouri confirmed that he owned the station. He declined to say how he had obtained the speech but promised that his channel would be broadcasting more of Gaddafi’s remarks “within the next few hours.“
“We have our own ways, and we are helped by noble, honest Libyans inside Tripoli,” he said.
Jibouri's first TV station, al-Zawra, also hit headlines worldwide in 2007 after it began broadcasting endless loops of insurgent videos depicting real attacks on American forces. At the time, he claimed the station was operating out of a van roaming through insurgent-controlled territory, and the U.S. military said it was hunting for him because the wall-to-wall coverage of exploding Humvees and blazing Bradley Fighting Vehicles was inflaming Iraqi opinion.
Jibouri is a Sunni from Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit who was elected to parliament in 2005 but later fled and is now wanted by the Iraqi government for attempted embezzlement. He eventually turned up in Damascus, re-based his TV station there and changed its name to al-Rai. He later also established al-Ourouba, which features a mixture of news and chat shows promoting Arab nationalism.
Jibouri denied he had any ties to the Libyan regime and said Gaddafi threatened to blow up the station after Jibouri initially supported the Libyan revolution. Gaddafi also called the Syrian government and asked it to shut the station down, it said.
Jibouri said he switched sides and became a Gaddafi supporter after the NATO bombing campaign began. “Western intervention in an Arab Muslim country must be resisted,” he said. “We would do the same for any Arab country in that situation.”
Journalists have a slightly different recollection of the timing of his policy shift. At the Rixos Hotel in March, as the Libyan rebellion was just beginning and before the NATO campaign began, TVs in their rooms were tuned to the two channels, which broadcast recordings of Gaddafi speeches, and chat shows featuring Jibouri talking to Gaddafi supporters.
Among the journalists were two Iraqis working for his stations, who appeared to receive preferential treatment from the government minders. While the rest of the press corps were herded onto buses for government tours, they were given their own vehicle, a deluxe, smoky-windowed SUV.
Sly reported from Beirut and Mukhtar, a special correspondent, from Ramadi, Iraq.