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.

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

    Why don't the world intervene in Lybya and rescue those poor people? Mr. Gaddafi seems to be loosing control over the country. However, he is still strong enough to kill all the people of Lybya before he loses all the power. He's ordered his men to "cleanse" the country, like Hitler. Before it is really happening, the West has to rescue the people like what they've said!

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

      Gaddafi looks like he should be the manager of some professional wrestling villian. He kind of reminds of the the Grand WIzard of Wreslting, Ernie Roth, who used to manage the original Shiek. Love the suit and hat MoMo.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. ASPG

    Obama needs to understand fast that Gadhafi is not going to last... much better men than him have been overthrown after they made mistakes. Gadhafi is one of the more evil ones... and people will no longer stand him. Obama and the rest of the world needs to get this fast, and act accordingly . If anyone thinks they are helping in any way by supporting him, or if they delude themselves into thinking that they are helping oil prices to stay stable by doing so, I feel sorry for them! supporting Gadhafi at this point can only prolong the battle and therefore make oil prices worse. the quicker we see a change to a democratic government, supported by the people, the better for the whole world.

    So don't think about money only (because you will lose your money if you do), think about the well being of the world, and you will benefit in every way (even financially). Supporting justice and democracy will bring good rewards.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. MarToon

    I believe that when all is said and done, and many gallons of blood spilled, ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER will become the ruler of Lybia and usher in a period of harmony for the middle east and the entire world.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tewrobert

    All we need to do is put Gadhafi, Ahmadinejad , Bush jr, Mugabee, and last but not least the Saudi family in Gitmo, Lock the door and throw the key away amd starve that worthless f'n UN out of business ( what ever that was ) and the worlds problems are solved.......

    February 23, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      While I completely agree with you about throwing all of them into Gitmo (you forgot Chavez), and then starving the worthless UN out of commission, you're an idiot to think that ALL of the worlds problems would be solved. I really, really think we need to focus on the UN here, they are so useless. Way too much money is wasted with them and they do far more harm than good.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      If only things were that simple! Unfortunately they are not, however.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • David M

      I disagree with a lot of what Bush jr said and did, but don't you dare put him in the same context as those dictators. He was elected by the American people in an open election. Whatever he may have done wrong pales to insignificance when compared to these dictators. Your comparison is stupid.

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

      Come on David M,your post is one of the dumbest yet. Of course both Bush and his father need to be tried in an international war crimes tribunal for what they did,but tragically enough they won't!

      February 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • El

      Why punish G.W.? He was only following orders from Cheney!

      February 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David G.

    Can someone tell me why, if the Eastern border is not being manned at all why there isn't a larger media presence in Libya – press just keeps saying that reliable reports are difficult but apparently anyone can just walk into the country...

    February 23, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Let me know when you're ready to head over there yourself and die mercilessly at the hands of a ruthless dictator, in some nameless Libyan back alley. The answer to your question is they don't want to die. You think Anderson Cooper getting "roughed up" in Egypt was bad?? You will straight up be murdered in Libya right now if you're a foreign reporter.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • El

      Gee, think that might have _something_ to do with Gadafi declaring that all journalists will be executed on sight?

      February 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. joe

    Tewrobert, it seems that you and Cesar are the funny ones, when people are dying you shouldn't be making jokes, did you guys joked when the twin towers were hit? Keep on being funny you sound so stupid

    February 23, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tim

    I admire your courage and strength – may you succeed in your plight for freedom.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. Juan

    The people in these regions(especially the young) have finally woken up from that foot on there faces for so many generations! Technology has allowed them to see what other muslims in other countries have come to enjoy. They ask themselves, Why can't I have that!!! They finally see why they can't progress and prosper, because of these dictators that will never leave. These regions are so far behind the rest of the world, but this is a very good first historical step in changing their lives and for their generations to come. I am proud to see people standing up to the bullies!!

    February 23, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin

      You hit the nail on the head, Juan! Nothing lasts forever and appearently we are lucky enough to witness the largest scale regime change in the world! Once these people become this motivated, not a million bombs, bullets, or threats is going to be enough to change the glorious outcome; The fall of opressive dictators and the welcoming of newer, smarter governments powered by free people!

      February 23, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. donalduck815

    Come on IRAN....join the BandWagon !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 23, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. donalduck815

    Come on IRAN....join the BandWagon!!!!!!!!!

    February 23, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. joe

    Tewrobert don't you dare insult our expresident Bush again.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Scott

    I would love to click my internet browser "refresh" button and see an update that Gadafi has been assassinated, either by a sniper or at the hands of one of those personal bodyguard babes.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • El

      They are not bodyguards, they are Ukrainian "nurses". Apparently boob jobs are a prerequisite for a Ukrainian Nursing Certification...

      February 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David M

    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.

    That's an interesting comment since he will not allow his own citizens to express their opinions. Looks to me like a thinly veiled attempt to create unrest in the middle east so Islam can gain an even stronger foothold.

    February 23, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tewrobert

    I can say whatever I want of Bush or anybody else you stupid moron

    February 23, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Easy ladies.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • David M

      Your sentence says more about you than it does about Bush.

      February 23, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    Didn't U.S. World Cup team beat Algeria??? Coincidence???

    February 23, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
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