N. Africa, Mideast protests: Libya's interior minister kidnapped, media say
A Tunisian man crosses from Libya back into Tunisia on Wednesday as thousands of foreigners flee the restive country.
February 23rd, 2011
08:26 PM ET

N. Africa, Mideast protests: Libya's interior minister kidnapped, media say

Across the Middle East and North Africa, CNN's reporters and iReporters are covering protests, many of them inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled those countries' longtime rulers. Check out our story explaining the roots of the unrest in each country. Have a story to tell from the scene? Click here to send an iReport.

Developments on unrest in the Middle East and North Africa:

[LIBYA, 9:40 p.m. ET, 4:40 a.m. local] CNN's Tommy Evans took the following photo of people crossing into Tunisia from Ras Ajdir, Libya, on Wednesday. Thousands of people were fleeing Libya due to the unrest and violence there. At this border crossing, Tunisian volunteers greeted people with food and medical care.

[LIBYA, 8:45 p.m. ET, 3:45 a.m. local] CNN's Ben Wedeman, reporting from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which is in opposition control, says an ad-hoc local government has been put in place at Benghazi's courthouse. Citizens have set up committees to collect garbage, protect government property, and ensure an adequate supply of food and medicine.

[LIBYA, 7:22 p.m. ET, 2:22 a.m. local] Aaron David Miller, former Middle East negotiator in the U.S. State Department, writes that there are many good reasons for a careful U.S. approach to Libya, with the Americans-in-Libya factor being just one.

[LIBYA, 6:55 p.m. ET, 1:55 a.m. local] CNN's Ed Henry reports that although U.S. President Barack Obama had taken heat for a relatively muted response in the early days of the crisis in Libya, U.S. officials privately believe it was the best strategy because if Obama had bashed Libya's leader, it could have put the thousands of Americans who are in Libya in harm's way.

[YEMEN, 6:47 p.m. ET, 2:47 a.m. local] Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is calling for an end to the protests in that country and said he supports the creation of a national unity government to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections, the state-run news service Saba reported Wednesday.

He said that demonstrations must stop to "prepare for a suitable atmosphere" for the elections, and he also repeated his pledge not to run for re-election, Saba reported.

Anti-government demonstrators say that's not good enough. Undeterred by an attack on their sit- a day earlier – when at least two people were killed, according to an opposition lawmaker - anti-government protesters gathered at Sanaa University again on Wednesday to demand that Saleh step down.

[ALGERIA, 6:29 p.m. ET, 12:29 a.m. local] The United States welcomes Algeria's decision to lift its 1992 state of emergency decree "as a positive step," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in an e-mailed statement.

"We reaffirm our support for the universal rights of the Algerian people, including the freedom of assembly and expression," Crowley said.

Algeria's move, announced yesterday, lifts restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. Those restrictions were imposed in 1992 to combat an Islamist insurgency. The decision to lift the restrictions comes as Algeria, like other Arab nations, faces waves of protest.

[LIBYA, 6:01 p.m. ET, 1:01 a.m. local] U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says via Twitter that a chartered ship that is tasked to evacuate U.S. citizens from Libya's capital to Malta is delayed "due to high seas."

"Citizens are safe on board. It will leave when the weather permits," Crowley's message says.

The ferry picked up U.S. citizens, embassy staff, and some third-country nationals Wednesday at central Tripoli's As-shahab port. The ferry can hold 575 people; it's not clear how many people are on board.

[LIBYA, 5:39 p.m. ET, 12:39 a.m. local] Here is video of U.S. President Barack Obama's statement on Libya. In the statement, Obama said the United States strongly condemns the violence in Libya, is sending top envoys to Europe to discuss the situation, and is considering a series of options including sanctions against the Libyan government.

[LIBYA, 5:23 p.m. ET, 12:23 a.m. local] In his statement on Libya, U.S. President Barack Obama said he has instructed Bill Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, to make several stops "in Europe and the region to intensify our consultation with allies and partners about the situation in Libya."

He also said he is sending U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, to meet with a number of foreign ministers convening for a session of the Human Rights Council.

"There, she'll hold consultations with her counterparts on events throughout the region and continue to ensure that we join with the international community to speak with one voice to the government and the people of Libya," Obama said.

The Human Rights Council, part of the United Nations, is negotiating a resolution on Libya, according to European diplomats who spoke to CNN.

Obama, in his statement, said the United States is looking at a series of options - including sanctions - unilaterally as well as through international institutions, allies and partners to put pressure on Libya's government in light of the violence there.

[LIBYA, 5:15 p.m. ET, 12:15 a.m. local] More from U.S. President Barack Obama's statement on Libya: He said the United States "will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice and stand up for the dignity of all people."

[LIBYA, 5:12 p.m. ET, 12:12 a.m. local] More from U.S. President Barack Obama's statement on Libya: He said the United States strongly condemns the use of violence in Libya, adding that "the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable."

He said Libya "must be held accountable" for its failure to meet its responsibilities. "The entire world is watching," he said.

[LIBYA, 5:09 p.m. ET, 12:09 a.m. local] The United States is doing "everything we can" to protect American citizens in Libya, President Barack Obama said. The United States also is looking at options to put pressure on Libya's government - including sanctions - in light of the violence there, Obama said.

Obama still is speaking about Libya, and we'll have more shortly.

[LIBYA, 5:05 p.m. ET, 12:05 a.m. local] The daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Aisha Gadhafi, tells Libyan state TV that she's heard reports that the United Nations has dropped her as an unpaid goodwill ambassador, but she says she can't verify whether it's true.

"But all the Libyans, who know me and I (know) them, they know that I am the goodwill ambassador with or without the United Nations," she said.

Earlier, the United Nations said it did terminate Gadhafi's daughter's stint as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Program. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Aisha Gadhafi was appointed goodwill ambassador for Libya in 2009 to address HIV/AIDS and violence against women in the country. Nesirky said the U.N. agency ended its agreement with her given recent events in Libya.

[LIBYA, 3:56 p.m. ET, 10:56 p.m. local] U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned what he called "egregious violations" of human rights in Libya's attempt to put down a spreading revolt Wednesday.

"Those responsible for brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished," he told reporters.

[LIBYA, 3:39 p.m. ET, 10:39 p.m. local] U.S. prices for crude oil settles at $98.10 a barrel after hitting $100 for the first time since October 2008 as reports of Libyan oil production shutdowns swirled.

[LIBYA, 3:32 p.m. ET, 10:32 p.m. local] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Libyan government "will be held accountable" for the acts of violence taken against protesters.

"Everything will be on the table," she told reporters at the State Department in Washington. "We will look at all the possible options" to end the violence.

"This is now the moment for the international community to act together," she said. The U.S. government "deeply regrets the loss of life" that has occurred in Libya.

Clinton noted that the situation in Libya is "fluid and uncertain" at the moment, and said U.S. authorities are "consulting closely" with representatives of other governments. Clinton stressed that the State Department is encouraging all Americans to leave Libya immediately.

[LIBYA, 3:25 p.m. ET, 10:25 p.m. local] A U.S. chartered ship that is tasked to evacuate U.S. citizens out of Libya will stay in port in Tripoli all night because of bad weather, diplomatic sources say. The ship is expected to leave at some point Thursday morning, the sources said.

[ZIMBABWE, 3:11 p.m. ET] Zimbabwe isn't in North Africa or the Middle East, but we have an update on a development in Zimbabwe that has a connection to unrest in those regions. Last week, dozens of political activists and union members were rounded up in Zimbabwe on suspicion of plotting an Egyptian-style uprising against longtime President Robert Mugabe. On Wednesday, a prosecutor said they've been charged with treason and face possible death sentences.

[LIBYA, 1:39 p.m. ET, 8:39 p.m. local] U.S. oil prices spiked above $100 a barrel for the first time in more than two years Wednesday, as reports of Libyan oil production shutdowns swirled.

[LIBYA, 1:06 p.m. ET, 8:06 p.m. local] President Barack Obama condemns the violence in Libya and will make a public statement on the situation Wednesday or Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

[LIBYA, 12:55 p.m. ET, 7:55 p.m. local] The United Nations has dropped Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's daughter as an unpaid goodwill ambassador, the U.N. announced. Aisha al-Gadhafi was appointed to the post in 2009 to address HIV/AIDS and violence against women in Libya, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

[LIBYA, 12:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local] Italian oil giant Eni, the largest foreign oil company in Libya, said production in the country has been partially shut down due to ongoing violence.

[LIBYA, 12:25 p.m. ET, 7:25 p.m. local] The death toll in Libya may be as high as 1,000, a representative for Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

[LIBYA, 9:45 a.m., 4:45 p.m. local] A Libyan military aircraft crashed Wednesday southwest of Benghazi after the crew refused to follow orders to bomb the city, Libya's Quryna newspaper reported.

[ISRAEL, 9:39 a.m. ET, 4:39 p.m. local] Israeli President Shimon Peres called the presence of Iranian warships in the Suez Canal a "provocation" and not a serious threat, but he warned an audience of Europeans that they face an "existential" danger from Iran's nuclear program. In Iran, a military commander expressed patriotic pride over the first Iranian vessels to sail through the Suez since the Islamic republic's 1979 revolution.

[LIBYA, 7:43 a.m., 2:43 p.m. local] Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirms a chartered evacuation flight for U.K. citizens has left England for Tripoli, Libya. A second flight is planned for later Wednesday.

[IRAN, 7:41 a.m. ET, 4:11 p.m. local] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Middle East leaders to listen to citizens who demand a change in government. "He strongly recommended such leaders to let their peoples express their opinions," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported Ahmadinejad as saying.

[GAZA, 7:37 a.m. ET, 2:37 p.m. local] Israeli tank shelling east of Gaza City has injured 11 people on Wednesday, Palestinian security and medical sources said. The Israel Defense Forces said its soldiers returned fire after an explosive device detonated near troops on the Israel-northern Gaza border and a mortar shell was fired at them.

[LIBYA, 6 a.m. ET, 1 p.m. local] The eastern Libyan region of Cyrenaica is no longer under the control of the Libyan government, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

[EGYPT, 5:46 a.m. ET, 12:46 p.m. local] The Interior Ministry building in Egypt was burning Wednesday as smoke billowed into the sky over Cairo. Witnesses said the fire was started during unrest in the area and could have been from Molotov cocktails. The building was the scene of violent clashes during the Egyptian revolution and is about three blocks away from Tahrir Square.

[LIBYA, 4:49 a.m. ET, 11:49 a.m. local] A witness in the capital city of Tripoli said Wednesday morning that sporadic gunshots rang out all night long. When day broke, the main roads in the city had been "cleaned off as if nothing happened," she said. Most were staying indoors, as security forces increased their presence on many streets.

She said several more checkpoints have been set up, restricting residents' movements. She reported the food shortage is getting worse, and shops were closed Wednesday.

[LIBYA, 4:36 a.m. ET, 11:36 a.m. local] All night long, residents in Libya's capital Tripoli heard sporadic gunshots, a resident told CNN Wednesday.

When day broke, the main roads in the city had been "cleaned off as if nothing happened," she said.  Most were staying indoors, as security forces increased their presence on many streets following Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's defiant speech Tuesday to hold on to power.

[CAMEROON, 4:16 a.m. ET, 10:16 a.m. local] Opposition groups in Cameroon are planning "Egypt-like" protests Wednesday to call for the president's ouster after almost three decades in power.

[LIBYA, 3:55 a.m. ET, 10:55 a.m. local] Among the unwitting victims caught up in the violent unrest in Libya are asylum-seekers and refugees, the U.N. refugee agency said as it urged neighboring countries not to turn them away should they flee the upheaval.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, the chief spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that the reports she has received have been worrying.

"A journalist has passed  information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who  say they are being hunted  on suspicion of being mercenaries. He says  they
feel trapped and are  frightened to go out, even though there is  little or no food at home," Melissa Fleming said.

[YEMEN, 2:28 a.m. ET, 10:28 a.m. local] At least two people were killed when pro-government loyalists attacked and opened fire on anti-government sit-in participants in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday night, an opposition lawmaker said.

Foad Dahaba, a lawmaker with the opposition Islah party, provided the figure to CNN on Wednesday. Until now, protesters had provided conflicting numbers for the toll.

[TURKEY, 2:22 a.m. ET, 9:22 a.m. local] Two ferry boats carrying more than 3,000 Turks left the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi early Wednesday morning, the Turkish foreign ministry said. Two more ferry boats – each capable of carrying 1,200 - are headed to the North African nation.

The ministry added, "Apart from Turkish Airlines daily scheduled flights to Tripoli, seven more planes are on standby in case it is permitted to fly to Benghazi airport or make additional flights to Tripoli." Since Saturday, Turkey has evacuated 2,100 citizens from Libya, the foreign ministry said.

[BAHRAIN, 2:10 a.m. ET, 10:10 a.m. local] Bahrain has released between 23 and 25 high-profile political detainees, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the kingdom ordered the release of a number of prisoners and closed cases against several Shiite leaders accused of plotting against the kingdom.

[LIBYA, 2:03 a.m. ET, 9:03 a.m. local] Libya's ex-interior minister who resigned his role to support anti-government protesters has been kidnapped, state media reported  Wednesday.

Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi told CNN that he resigned Monday after hearing that 300 unarmed civilians had been killed in Benghazi. He accused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of planning to attack civilians on a wide scale.

But hours later, state media reported that "gangs" in Libya's second-largest city, Benghazi, had kidnapped him.

[LIBYA, 10:25 p.m. ET, 5:25 a.m. local] Via Twitter, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs says U.S. citizens wishing to leave Libya should go to As-shahab Port as soon as possible after 9 a.m. and arrive no later than 10 a.m.

"U.S. government chartered ferry will depart for Valletta, Malta no later than 3 p.m. on Wednesday," the bureau said via Twitter.

Earlier, a senior administration official told CNN that the State Department is chartering ferries to take Americans from Tripoli's As-shahab port to Valletta, Malta on Wednesday.

Post by: , ,
Filed under: Algeria • Bahrain • Egypt • Libya • Tunisia • Yemen
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    Ahhhh, the domino affect for freedom has begun. How will it end?

    February 23, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • wuf

      ....with the US spending billions

      February 23, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • RichC


      February 23, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • praying

      I hope and pray NOT with a disperate ruler pushing a red button.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • JustAThought

      No countries will get involved at a time like this, knowing that part of their military sides with the people. Besides, every country is on a budget! Hell, it's free labor! Let their people/soilder do the dirty work on their own free will. Eventually, UK, US, and the useless UN will get involve when the time is right... the time to step in and see what they can grab. Kind of like looting!!! Nobody will do anything out of goodwill now these day. Nobody will do anything unless it's profitable. Hell, just think about how much money someone(some organizations) made out of Haiti!!!

      February 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • LV

      You assume too much - that the people are like Americans, generally literate and educated, and know what a democracy is. They don't, so any change will be slow, and change may be dominated by the only people running the education system; those in the Mosques. And who are they? Nobody reports the region very well here - all we get is politically correct cr(p.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. raven

    Hey Cesar! Its pretty cool watchin history be made in such a big way . I think the dynamic of the entire middle east is gonna be changed and that rightly soon !

    February 23, 2011 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Haemisch

      Unfortunately, with the rise of Islam in the last thirty or forty years, it is not likely to be pro-deomocratic in any of these countries.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. raven

    And before anyone jumps me , I know Libyas in N Africa. I meant that whole region.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. angela

    Why did the kidnap hoim after he resigned and sided with the protestors. Don't get it

    February 23, 2011 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      They didn't. State TV is spinning it that he was abducted when in fact he defected.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Quadaffi is the wester government

    b.p. Oil... Cheny pro west quadaffi. Ceaser falls. put quaddafi before the congress and tell the story. Pro west are all the falling kings of repression. We love b.p. And all who make the world based on violence for oil junkies. ceaser do you homework and forget those fox soundbites.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:09 am | Report abuse |
    • No Names Please

      Hello?!?! Atleast someone is thinking about all of the issues. Its all very strange to me that after years of unrest in this region and the efforts to topple these governments, its all happening now and in this manner so quickly. Im happy about it, but at what cost and what is REALLY behind it. Time will tell. God bless.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      Quadaffi is the wester government,I'm the true Cesar,I did my homework and I totally agree with you!!!

      February 23, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Cesar

    @raven, that's right, lot's of history being made. New books for those World History books.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. personny

    Israel is becoming a nation. http://nopolicestate.blogspot.com/2011/01/egypt_29.html

    February 23, 2011 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. banasy

    Starting to wonder myself.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joe


    February 23, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    Hi, personny! How are you today? Oh, that's right, you're not *really* here, your're just spamming. Never mind.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Remembering Lockerbie

    Lockerbie cover-up and truth

    Filed under: an príomhbhóthar

    Yesterday the Libyan convicted in 2001 for the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was released from prison on compassionate grounds. If anyone knows of or remembers the Pan Am air disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland which killed 270 people, including many on the ground, and which was subsequently blamed on the Libyans, you may be interested in reading this book which has been banned and had much trouble seeing the light of day due to governmental intervention. I found it at the Ralph Nader online library, which is a quite interesting resource. The name of the book (which can be read and downloaded online) is:


    “The true story of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988 has been enshrouded in government-created lies. The American government claimed that two Libyan agents, acting alone, placed the bomb aboard an Air Malta flight to Frankfurt, Germany, where it was transferred to a London-bound 727, and then transferred again to the 747 Jumbo Jet at Heathrow Airport, destined for New York, the ill-fated flight 103. I knew better. I had spent the past four years gathering strategic intelligence on narco-terrorist cells in Lebanon as an agent for two Federal agencies — the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy unit, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Two days after the bombing, appearing on the NBC Nightly News, I told Tom Brokaw and his television audience, ‘We should take a close look at Libya — renegade CIA operative Edwin Wilson sold Leader Muhammar Gadaffi 20 tons of plastique explosives and has trained the Libyans to make bombs.’ I didn’t know then, but subsequently learned, that Wilson was no renegade. He had recruited Gadaffi at the behest of his CIA bosses, who then turned on him, arresting Wilson in 1977 and prosecuting him for doing what he had been ordered to do. While Wilson fought his battle against the CIA’s campaign of character assassination from a prison cell, Wilson’s partner Frank Terpil continued training Libyans in bomb-making and terror tactics. When Pan Am 103 was destroyed in mid-air in 1988, Gadaffi had been perfectly positioned to serve as the CIA’s scapegoat. Because Wilson knew the truth, the CIA’s campaign to discredit and silence him continued until 2003, when Judge Lynn Hughes ordered him released from Federal prison, declaring that the CIA’s story was ‘nothing but lies.’”

    A comment on a news post >>here alerted me to this disclosure about the book and sent me on a quest to find it.

    There are many other fascinating resources about a wide variety of issues at the library. It is located here: The Ralph Nader Library.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • xnysmokie

      Right.. the CIA is responsible for everything in the world... the CIA probably bombed that club rather then Libya and also were behind the plot to kill athletes at the Olympics in Germany years ago... Its amazing how people beleive anything posted on line.. this clown says HE tikd Tom Brokaw about the plot on the news... but doesnt give a name or proof.. just says the CIA engaged in bomb making in Libya and were responsible for the plane bombing.. unreal

      February 23, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      Thanks a million Remembering Lockerbie,for doing your homework. Good posting.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joe


    February 23, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  13. ??

    So what's the point? The CIA is behind all the civil unrest in the ME?

    February 23, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Yeah. They must be REALLY good at it!

      February 23, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kar-al-sahli

    Mo is the Man!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Benjamin

    I strongly believe that it is a beautiful sight to behold as the Middle-East transforms so tremendously. These people are fighting and dying for the very rights WE have enjoyed for the past 200+ years! The power and freedom of democracy is spreading so fluidly even without direct intervention from our government! Americans defated a super power (Great Britain at the time) for these rights and enjoyed the glory and responsibility that came with it! we should sit back and observe these brave people of the Middle-East and not intervene as to allow them to earn their own freedom and glory, for it is THEIRS to earn!
    As for the fear of an enemy of America to replace Gadafi, we should not worry so much. Let us remember it is THEIR COUNTRY, and as long as their leader is one of THEIR PEOPLE'S CHOICE, it will be the right one. I seriously doubt they would replace him with a monster of the same character.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Epidi

      Well said.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • maryann

      The problem I see with democracy in Egypt is this. Is it really going to be democracy. Eight percent of Egypt is Christian and Egypt's former leader was at the very least, secular. Are people going to be free to practice their religious beliefs or will Islam rule and anyone who is not Islam be persecuted? If that is the case, so much for democracy and freedom.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Why does everyone assume that because there is a protest that they must want a US-style democracy? History does not support that premise. As a generality, Middle Eastern cultures have favored governments based on religion that tend to be founded on oppression. Why would that suddenly change? I suspect that when the dust settles you are going to find that all that has happened is that they have replaced one despot with another with a sham democracy in place to lay claim to the "will of the people". They are just rearranging the political furniture here. At the end of the day its going to be the same old house.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin C.

      I was only using America as an example. I was not implying that they would impliment U.S style democracy. Freedom of speech, Expression, and other basic human rights (Not Specifically everything we push for but many of the same) is what they are after. Same old house, maybe but the most important part of this whole revolution is that it would be THEIR CHOICE.

      February 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
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