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 ‚Äď 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.

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Filed under: Algeria • Bahrain • Egypt • Libya • Tunisia • Yemen
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. vegas01

    Haven't seen the media criticizing these groups for resisting dictatorial government. What happened to bad mouthing individuals the rally against government seeking freedom? Surely the media can find or plant some rogue individuals in these crowds like they did the Tea Party rallies.

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

      Teabagger rallies? How are you going to compare them to the Middle East?
      Teabagger rallies whose leader is Palin the most idiotic person in the world.
      If the media did plant someone in the crowds we should be thanking them for discrediting such ignorant people.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Donna J.Marn

    Keep Everyone Honest!!!Way to go!!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. xnysmokie

    I cant believe how stupid the president of Iran is.. He is saying to allow people throughout the middle east to express their opionions and protest peacefully but he has his troops and police attack any group of people demonstrating at all even if its half a dozen... They beat people and chase them off the streets. Talk about 2 faced.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. hahaha11

    I want freedom

    February 23, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. Martin

    Iranian President Ahmadinejad must be the biggest hypocrite in the history of the planet.

    He "urges Middle Eastern leaders to listen to their people"? Because he does this so well himself?

    Mr. President, don't tell others that they should listen when you're firing tear gas at your own protesters.

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

      He's as loony as Ghadafi – and just as dangerous to his own people.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    I have nothing to say about thiis and that's final!...grump.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Amy

    they should point this plain at Kadafi before catapulting themselves!

    February 23, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      That comment was so stupid, it made my brain hurt.

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

      What does your statement mean, Amy?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bob C

    These news shows that the low and middle class citizens of Middle Eastern countries are fed up with corruptions of those in power, but the citizens of the world's most free and powerful country, the USA are only heros in their movies but are silence and scared to revolt to prevent the shut down of more schools, hospitals, poor health care and economic disaster cause USA is the biggest terrorist on planet Earth invading countries for their own interest and profit of their rich and Bush is a war crime that was never executed for his war crimes. Now if CNN okay'd my writing, then we live in a free speech world, if not, its all selective publication and not free speech.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mentallect

    I acknowledge and support the need for democracy in Libya. When dictators become unresponsive to the needs of young people - high unemployment, high education, and mixed with high expectations, riots arise. Pride prevents such leaders from leaving office. The US cannot forcibly remove each dictator, but because the US coddled so many of them based on financial and political needs and considerations, we now have a responsibility to aid in civil and no-violent transitions. The fact Gadhafi remains in power has less to do with political skills he possess than with America's and other democracies around the world own selfish considerations. Perhaps when oil is obsolete, there will be much more peace.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      Actually,the U.S. and Britain installed far more dictators than they removed. That's why,except for Syria and Iran the dictators in the Middle East have been staunchly pro-Western! Moreover,just disregard what my impostor says since he's doing it purely for his self amusement!!!

      February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • ASPG

      I agree! And I also don't think thinking about oil at this point is very smart, even from a financial viewpoint! Those who are thinking about oil now are short sighted fools! Who are going to end up driving oil prices higher because of their narrow concern with money before all else.

      What did Jesus Christ say? Seek first the kingdom of God (justice included) and then all these things (material) will be added onto you.
      Not, seek oil first and then the kingdom of God will come.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. Benjamin

    The Iranian President needs to remember, that his current philosophy and leadership techniques are not unlike that of the leadership in the countries in unrest and complete regime change. Revolution is like a yawn, it is the most contageous event in the world. His days truly are numbered. He might want to play this one carefully.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. ed bailey

    But of course our planning commission was and is involved in every aspect but not on the front lines. That is what yhey do, and sometimes (often) with disastrous consequences. The un is a pretty bad investment.some studies that flows out are interesting and not much else.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. Realist in NYC

    Soon ya'all Americans will have to pay the real price for a barrel of oil, $500 US. The reason is that when democracy takes hold in these countries and the stooges installed by colonial powers are all gone, those who were suppressed, oppressed and tortured all the years will become the next leaders – they are all anti-western. The west will have only 1 friend in the Middle East, and that is Israel, ummmm who needs oil as well.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      Thanks,Realist. Let's just hope that you're right.

      February 23, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • ASPG

      I don't think oppressed, suppressed people are by definition anti-western. To the degree that the US has fought against oppression and suppression in different parts of the world, they might even consider the US to be their best friend. I have seen already so many of them, happy to talk to the American press, feeling like they are fighting for the ideals that the US stands for.
      It is when the west goes against its own principles of freedom and democracy, when it supports dictators, that there is a problem. But those who oppose dictators have no blame for this. You cannot blame them for condemning what is wrong. You cannot label them "anti-western" and ignore what is truly going on. That's not realistic, it's the furthest thing from having a grasp of reality!!

      The world is changing, and no dictator can stop it.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Cesar

      And hopefully the West's influence will wane in the Middle East and the right-wing thugs in Washington will lose control there!

      February 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Realist in NYC

      It's the West who installed most of the dictators in the region. So most of the next generation of leaders will be anti-western.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Profyz

    The US and the rest of us cannot intervene in the Mideast other than lip service because we would go bankrupt if they do not keep depositing their illicit loot in our banks ( about 10 trillion dollars). How many of our banks have announced that they would freeze their dirty accounts? British Premier flew into Egypt two days ago to assure the Egyptian military Junta that their British accounts are safe. Swiss have already taken action in their Parliament to do the same. Wake up people, we live off of these idiots.

    February 23, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. gafearme123

    Are we just gonna sit here and watch a massacre about to happen?????????

    February 23, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • ana

      drug cartels doing masscare in juraz, mexico everyday, did you do anything about it?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. just teach

    The plane did not crash. It was shot down because the pilot and crew disobeyed orders. I say let the country destroy itself . We do not need to spend money saving them. We need to use our funds to take care of our own here in the US.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Adis

      Great philosophy! Nothing in the world outside of US borders affects US in any meaningful way as to require any sort of US involvement...except in midle east which is your gas station...and China where you buy your goods etc. Get a grip man, you live in a global world where everything has consequences to US.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
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