Libyan state television has aired what it says is a statement by Muammar Gaddafi, in which the Libyan leader denies reports that he has been wounded.
In the audio message, broadcast on Friday evening, Gaddafi said he is alive and safe despite air strikes from the NATO military alliance on his Bab al-Aziziyah compound in the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday.
Gaddafi said he is in a place where NATO bombs cannot reach him.
“I want to tell you that your bombing will not reach me because millions of Libyans bear me in their heart,” Gaddafi said, thanking heads of state who had asked about his health after the air strike.
“I tell the coward crusaders – I live in a place where you can’t get to me,” he said.
His address came hours after Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, was reported to have said that he believed Gaddafi had fled Tripoli, adding that the Libyan leader may have been injured during NATO air strikes, the Reuters news agency reported.
Speaking in Tuscany, Frattini said he had received information on Gaddafi from Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Catholic bishop in Tripoli, adding that it was credible.
Earlier, the minister told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that “I am of the view that he has probably fled from Tripoli, but not from the country.”
However, the Libyan leader’s spokesperson dismissed Frattini’s claims on Friday afternoon, ahead of Gaddafi’s own statement.
“The leader is in high morale. He’s in good spirits. He is leading the country day by day. He hasn’t been harmed at all,” Mussa Ibrahim said.
And the US state department, meanwhile, said on Friday that it has no information to confirm reports that Gaddafi has been wounded.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from the opposition-held Libyan city of Benghazi, said the speculation that Gaddafi may have fled to southern Libya had not yet been confirmed.
But he said that it was notable that Gaddafi’s statement was audio. By not showing the leader, it did not offer definitive proof of his physical condition.
“A lot of people have been remarking that these speeches of the Libyan leader started at three hours and are now a minute and a half,” Birtley noted.