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. Marthalynne Webb

    I think Cesar makes sense and is level headed 🙂

    Cesar, Are single? Near West Virginia?

    February 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    Yes Martha, how are you?

    February 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Arlon

    CNN's totally dropped the ball on coverage of this today...

    February 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin C.


      February 23, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. !!!

    Arlon, I've learned more from you than CNN!

    February 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. al amani

    My brothers from Lybia don't know what they want, they are mistaken if they think is going to be better, this is another trick from Americans who want to control middle east and the oil, you americans kill my brothers and children and don't care for nobody shame on you

    February 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • El

      Amazing... you claim to be from Libya, yet you can't even spell the name of your own country?!? GO AWAY TROLL!

      February 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jackson Andrew




    February 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    Budweiser? Budweiser? I don't drink Budweiser. I drink Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Corona, Moose Head (From Canada, ayy) and that German Beer in a white and green label that starts with an "H", Natural Light, and Micholob Ulta. Lot's of imposters today. Called in sick or coffee break??? Lot's of rude people too.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. al amani

    You americans should fix your own country before going to ours and destroying and killing women and children just to take our oil, that is why our beloved brother Osama bomb you, you are infidels and cruel people

    February 23, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin C.

      If your anger is truly genuine and not some kind of joke, then it is people with your mindset that contribute to the poison infecting this world. Try to educate yourself and stop being blinded by your own anger like a 5- year- old.

      February 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 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 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Derrick V.

    The Libyan government is not just creating chaos in their own country, they are traveling to foriegn soil and threating the lives of our scientists. See this footage for yourselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDS81Ibazdk

    February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Benjamin C.

    Our problems here in the U.S are not problems we can solve on our own. 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed money. Between foreign countries and private investors, our country is on loan. We have created a symbiotic relatioship with China and investors. Also the heavy burden of finishing what we have started in Iraq and Afghanistan is a resposibility of ours we cannot ignore no matter what we do. All we can do is take care of all of this one step ata time. Hard times, and a few decades of work will settle this. When it comes to Lybia and other countries undrgoing the same, it is not too clear as to our government's envolvement to be accusing of "placing" anything new yet. England and ourselves placing Gadafi, the Shaw etc. are decisions of the past. We have yet to see how strong a role we will play. Nothing has been done on our behalf yet, only words so far.

    February 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reasons

      What backs this legal tender...debt that you speak of?

      February 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alexander Reznikov

      It's time for Obama to start paying attention to domestic problems. He uses every possible way to ignore them. What a President we have!

      February 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck Hodges

      Is he smuggling a zebra or did he raid Gadhafi’s closet????

      February 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck Hodges

      So, take a look at the photo. Is this dude smuggling a zebra or did he raid Gadhafi’s closet????

      February 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      Everything that I hear is about Facebook or Twitter. CNN seems obsolete. Guess I need to open an account in those two.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      Why do you think everything sold in the US is made in China?!?! China buys US debt and US buy Chinese made goods. Though nearly all engineering adn Dev work is done in US, Chinese workers make the actual products. Of course most of the money ends up with the lucky few 😛

      February 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Boston

      Definition of Irony: US leadership is willing to envoke sanctions upon Libya, but sits on it's thumbs in places Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, etc. Funny how we pick and choose when democracy is a good thing and when it's not. I don't blame the President per say; his hands are tied politically, economically and so on. But I would rather we clean up our own back yard before we attempt to fix the problems of the world.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. henry

    Don't worry Cesar, no one cares about your comments

    February 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. henry

    You are right Mr. Ben, one of the things that hurt the most in our economy are the wars that consume huge amounts of money and resources apart from our soldiers that get KIA, I wonder how the economy would have been with out these wars and oil prices?

    February 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benjamin C.

      Well, we can only speculate that our economy would be far better off. I am a Former Marine but I am not saying I condone the intial invasion or our reasons in Iraq. Poor decisions and becoming distracted by anger created what we now have today. We cannot walk away from this. We have to help those militaries(Iraq and Afghanistan) stand on their own again. It would be terrible to destroy them and then tell them to defend themselves against thier enemies with both arms tied behined their backs.We bit off more than we can chew but that does not give us the right to walk away from responsibilities. We can handle this. It is just that people panic and get overwhelmed by hard decisions for the future.

      February 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • RM

      Ben, we can walk away. Difference between a human and a machine, is that humans know when to quit. Leave those people alone. There will never be peace in the middle east.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkB

      Imagine how many jobs the military industry creates for Cheney! You are not a patriot if you don't see that, in fact you're a pinhead. Tide goes in...

      February 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Profyz

    The US and the rest of us cannot intervene 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 friend. We are living off of these idiots.

    February 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mohamad

    Hi CESAR..... Remember me, how are you doing my friend? Its been a long time, how's Grandma doing? Pls tell her I said hi.

    February 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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