Fugitive Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has reappeared in what could be his sixth audio message since rebel forces overtook the capital.
Once again, Gaddafi sounded defiant and contradicted the statements of rebels and officials in his message, this time insisting he had not fled to Niger. And once again, the physical Gaddafi was nowhere to be seen — he hasn’t been in months — and no media organization was able to say they had verified the message, instead using words such as “purportedly,” “unverified” and “believed to be” to describe the recording.
In large part, that’s because of the messenger. Thursday’s five-minute long audio was aired on Syrian-based Al Rai TV, and past audio messages have been aired on its sister al-Ourouba channel, both owned by a controversial Iraqi who is believed to be a Gaddafi supporter. Mishan Jabouri launched his TV career by airing videos of U.S. soldiers being blown up and has recently become “Gaddafi’s last remaining mouthpiece,” the Atlantic Wire reports.
Instead of verifying the messages themselves, reporters have noted that the “voice and rhetoric strongly resembled Gaddafi,” that he was referring to himself in the third person, that the “style strongly resembled Gaddafi, who has used the TV channel in the past.”
But is that enough to go on?
In Thursday’s message, Gaddafi said that loyalist forces “are ready to start the fight in Tripoli and everywhere else, and rise up against them,” referring to the rebels. That promise had been made in earlier messages, and yet loyalist attempts to fight back in recent days have been weak.
“Gaddafi won’t leave the land of his ancestors,” the message also said. While rebel forces also believe Gaddafi has not left Libya, reports earlier this week suggest the strongman could be in Niger or Burkina Faso, or headed there. Dozens of other locales have been suggested as his hiding place.
The lesson, it seems, is that these audio recordings are “unverified,” and until Gaddafi is seen in the flesh, should be taken as such.