Mideast live blog: Humanitarian crisis loomed before intervention, Obama says
Libyan rebels ride in their vehicles as they progress westward toward Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.
March 28th, 2011
11:39 PM ET

Mideast live blog: Humanitarian crisis loomed before intervention, Obama says

An unemployed college graduate in Tunisia set himself ablaze after police confiscated his fruit cart, cutting off his source of income, late last year, sparking protests about high unemployment, corruption, rising prices and political repression in the North African country. In mid-January, autocratic Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country and an interim government took over. The success of the Tunisian protests in prompting regime change soon spurred similar protests across North Africa and the Middle East. Here is what's happening today:

[11:39 p.m. Monday ET, 5:39 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," reacts to U.S. President Barack Obama's televised address on Libya:

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/03/28/exp.arena.zakaria.libya.speech.cnn"%5D

[11:36 p.m. Monday ET, 5:36 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, reacts to U.S. President Barack Obama's televised address on Libya:

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/03/28/exp.piers.morgan.lindsey.graham.cnn"%5D

[11:28 p.m. Monday ET, 5:28 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's youngest son, who runs the country's elite special forces for his father's regime, was on an internship program in the United States when public unrest exploded in Libya last month, CNN's Pam Benson reports.

Khamis Gadhafi abruptly cut off his visit and returned to Libya, where he has led the 32nd Reinforced Brigade, known at the Khamis Brigade, in its  suppression of rebel forces.

ABC News was the first to report Khamis' recent stay in the U.S.

The brigade's headquarters was the target of six Tomahawk missiles overnight, according to Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Staff.  Libya's state TV on Monday night broadcast live footage from Gadhafi's Tripoli compound of Khamis dressed in uniform and greeting people. Prior to the broadcast there had been unconfirmed reports that the younger Gadhafi had died from injuries he suffered when a plane flown by a disgruntled Libyan pilot crashed into a military compound while he was there.

[7:55 p.m. Monday ET, 1:55 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] The world had a "unique ability to stop" violence "on a horrific scale" in Libya by acting in a broad coalition with the support of Arab countries, U.S. President Barack Obama said in his televised address on Libya.

"I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America," he said.

He also said that while there is no question that Libya would be better off without Moammar Gadhafi as leader, the United States will actively pursue his ouster through non-military means. But broadening the military mission "to include regime change would be a mistake," Obama said.

The transition to a "legitimate government" in Libya is "a task for the international community, and more importantly, a task for the Libyan people themselves," Obama said, adding: "If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter."

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/03/28/bts.obama.libya.mon.cnn"%5D

[7:38 p.m. Monday ET, 1:38 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] - U.S. President Barack Obama, addressing the Libyan situation in a televised speech, said he ordered U.S. warships into the Mediterranean off Libya because of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's "brutal repression" of his people and "a looming humanitarian crisis."

"It was not in our national interest" to let the citizens of Benghazi - a rebel stronghold on which pro-Gadhafi forces were advancing before coalition airstrikes - suffer a massacre at the hands of Gadhafi's forces, Obama said. It would have "stained the conscience of the world," he said.

[7:03 p.m. Monday ET, 1:03 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Pro-Gadhafi forces say they have taken control of the entire western Libyan city of Misrata after days of fighting there, but rebels say they still control the center of the city. The Libyan government has escorted journalists, including CNN's Nic Robertson, to Misrata, but not to the city's center.

In the video below, Robertson describes seeing signs of heavy fighting in Misrata, including "mile after mile of damage" and "tanks hiding under trees at the side of the road."

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2011/03/28/exp.tsr.coalition.fight.libya.cnn"%5D

[6:43 p.m. Monday ET, 12:43 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Since the coalition military operation began more than a week ago, the United States' "unique capabilities" have been referred to time and time again by U.S. officials, from President Barack Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. CNN's Jennifer Rizzo takes a look at those capabilities - military tools that other coalition and NATO countries do not, or do not have as much of, including surveillance and communication jamming capabilities.

[5:31 p.m. Monday ET, 11:31 p.m. in Libya] The U.S. military already has reduced its day-to-day presence in the coalition military operation above and around Libya, according to a defense official.

"Some of the ships have peeled off, but are still in the region," said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the mission. At least two of the ships involved in the initial phase of establishing the no-fly zone over Libya - which began March 19 - are no longer involved in day-to-day operations, the official said.

NATO is beginning to take command and control of the no-fly zone. However, it could take until Thursday or Friday for the organization to take over the entire mission mandated by a March 17 U.N. Security Council resolution. That resolution authorized the no-fly zone's creation and the protection of civilians.

[4:37 p.m. Monday ET, 10:27 p.m. in Libya] U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said at the Pentagon Monday that the United States is not working in direct support of opposition forces in Libya.

"We're not coordinating with the opposition," he said, adding that any gain it makes is "tenuous."

Gortney's comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained Monday that airstrikes by an international coalition including the United States seemed to expand beyond the scope of a U.N. resolution. That resolution, approved on March 17, created a no-fly zone above Libya and mandates the protection of civilians.

"There are reports - which go undenied - that the air forces of the coalition conduct airstrikes on (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi's troops and support the military actions of rebels. There is an obvious controversy there," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. "We believe that the interference into what is, essentially, an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution."

Libyan government officials also have argued that coalition forces target only troops loyal to Gadhafi.

[4:31 p.m. Monday ET, 10:31 p.m. in Libya] U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said at the Pentagon Monday that there have been no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in Libya as a result of coalition activity.

On Monday, Libyan state television displayed images of injured people in a hospital and destroyed buildings as it reported that civilians were wounded when bombs struck the central Libyan city of Sabha. CNN was unable to independently verify that report.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday said America had "intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked."

[4:10 p.m. Monday ET, 10:10 p.m. in Libya] Hours ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's nationally televised addressed on the situation in Libya, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that "if the American people are uncertain as to our military objectives in Libya, it's with good cause."

"What national security interest of the United States justified the risk of American life?" McConnell, R-Kentucky, asked. "What is the role of our country in Libya's ongoing civil war?"

Obama's speech follows calls from across the political spectrum for him to clarify America's role in the U.N.-authorized military mission in Libya.

[3:14 p.m. Monday ET, 9:14 p.m. in Libya] U.S. intelligence sees signs that some of those who are "relatively close to the Libyan leader are questioning whether he has staying power," a U.S. official says, according to CNN's Pam Benson.

American intelligence has seen indications that the "morale of Gadhafi forces is on the decline" as rebels have made significant gains over the past week, the official said.

[1:23 p.m. Monday ET, 7:23 p.m. in Libya] Libyan opposition fighters Monday entered territory loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but soon had to flee amid a barage of gunfire, rebels told CNN.

As they moved into Umm el Ghindel - near Sirte, Gadhafi's birthplace - they began searching some homes and found that Gadhafi's forces had armed residents in the area, rebels said.  As they were talking to residents, asking them to join the opposition, gunfire broke out.  Rebels told CNN they refused to fire back and began a hasty retreat.  A stream of vehicles could be seen fleeing the area.

[1:21 p.m. Monday ET, 7:21 p.m. in Egypt] Egypt's military rulers reduced a nationwide curfew so that it applies from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. as of Monday, said Maj. Mohamed Askar, a spokesman for the Egyptian military.

[12:36 p.m. Monday ET, 7:36 p.m. in Yemen] At least 121 people were killed and 45 injured in an explosion at an ammunition factory in southern Yemen on Monday, medical sources said.

The death toll was expected to rise, said the sources, who asked that they not be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the news media.

The blast comes after months of demonstrations against Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and a weekend of violence between government forces and the local al Qaeda group.

[11:34 a.m. Monday ET, 5:34 p.m. in Syria] Two Reuters journalists missing in Syria since Saturday have been released by Syrian authorities, the news agency reported Monday.

A Syrian official said the journalists were detained and questioned because they did not have a permit to work in Syria and had filmed "in an area where filming is not permitted."

The two traveled to Syria on Thursday to cover the unrest in the country, according to Reuters. Until their release Monday, television producer Ayat Basma and cameraman Ezzat Baltaji were last heard from on Saturday, when they sent a message to a colleague saying they were about to leave Syria for Lebanon, the news agency said.

[11:13 a.m. Monday ET, 5:13 p.m. in Syria] An "extraordinary number" of security forces flooded the Syrian city of Daraa on Monday, patrolling streets and guarding government buildings in an apparent attempt to stave off further protests, a political activist in the city told CNN.

The city is extremely tense and "people are sitting at home scared watching the updates on TV," said Aman Aswad. He said thousands of troops were deployed in the city, guarding government buildings, major streets and the city gates.

At least 37 people have died in violent protests since last week in Daraa, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

But Syria's state-run news agency denied reports that security forces had fired on protesters Monday. The reports are "completely false," the agency reported on its website, citing an official government source.

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[10:21 a.m. Monday ET, 4:21 p.m. in Libya] NATO officials said the alliance is expected to be in complete command of the no-fly zone over Libya by the end of the day Monday. The mission of protecting civilians is expected to be under full NATO control by the end of the week, they said.

[9:49 a.m. Monday ET, 3:49 p.m. in Libya] NATO's secretary general ruled out arming Libyan rebels Monday, as the alliance continued to take over command and control of the entire Libyan mission.

The first NATO sorties to implement the no-fly zone over Libya flew on Sunday, NATO officials said.  NATO expects to have complete command and control of all aspects of the Libyan mission by week's end, allowing the United States to step out of its lead role and more into a supporting one, as requested by the Obama administration.

In an interview with CNN at NATO headquarters, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, "The U.N. mandate authorizes the enforcement of an arms embargo," and that NATO has decided to participate.

"We are not in Libya to arm people, but to protect people," he said.

[9:19 a.m. Monday ET, 3:19 p.m. in Egypt] Voters in Egypt will elect members of parliament in September and cast ballots for president sometime after that, a member of the ruling military council said Monday. Gen. Mamdou Shahen said the elections would not be held under Egypt's emergency law, though he did not specify when the law would be lifted.

[9:03 a.m. Monday ET, 3:03 p.m. in Libya] Libyan opposition fighters continued their march west Monday with a key target in their sights: Sirte, Moammar Gadhafi's birthplace. Rebel forces claimed to have gained control Ras Lanuf on Sunday. The opposition also appeared to have taken control of the key oil town of al-Brega.  Victories in those cities marked a comeback for the ragtag group of amateur soldiers who are unified by one mission: toppling Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule. On Monday, opposition troops and Gadhafi's security forces battled over the town of Nawfaliyah.  Opposition forces told CNN they had gained control of the city.

[8:11 a.m. Monday ET, 3:11 p.m. in Yemen] At least 40 people were killed and 90 wounded in an explosion at an ammunition factory in Yemen on Monday, medical and security officials said. The dead and and wounded were mainly locals who were ransacking the factory after it was taken over by militants on Sunday, security officials said. The explosion took place in Abyan Province in southern Yemen, they said.

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Filed under: Libya • World • Yemen
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. the ghostfaced killah

    Who cares what a bunch of pyramid builders and cat worshipers are doing. They should go back to the Colosseum, because they're obviously not ready for modern civilization.

    March 28, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Neeely

      Such ignorance. The libyans have nothing to do with building the pyramids. When did you drop out of school? Third grade? At any rate, building the pyramids was great accomplishment if you have a clue. But I guess you don't. Watch out the weather today is really bad and a tornado my hit your trailer.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • the ghostfaced killah

      When did you drop out of school 3rd grade? You're grammar is ass, I think you meant to say "might" not "my"

      March 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. 2pac

    We jus need ta bomb em n bring home sum oil fo real, gas price too high n i aint sellin ma yukon fo no gay prius

    March 28, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Neeely

    In your case, I would say you never made the first grade. What's wrong with people in this page.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Cerebral paralysis!

      March 28, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Verbal flatulence caused by cerebral paralysis! Curable by education, but some of the participants here clearly have a long way to go.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    *Facepalm*

    March 28, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Zeeblezub

      *shoulderpat*

      March 28, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KeNny.G.

    Neely, maybe if you had read the article (instead of just the big words on top) you would see that Egypt is mentioned several times as well as Lybia. Did the Egyptians have anything to do with building the pyramids? hmmmmmm, maybe you should go hide in 2pac's trailer, I am sure you live in the same trailer park. I guess that old saying "takes one to know one" applies to idiots as well.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      If this is an idiot contest, you've just taken the lead.

      March 28, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    Oohh, Joe, you're not talking to me now, are you?

    March 28, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    No, not at all. Your comment probably shows the most intelligence so far. But stay tuned, Jerry Springer is almost over and I'm sure there will be more entertaining comments to follow.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. MIKE

    What is the difference between killing Libyans for Gadhafi or against Gadhafi they are still Libyans and we are killing them! Why? We will not get paid for this again we just burn money and that is how Acadia will beat us. I will bet we come out of this as the bad guy.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Yogi

      Hi,
      Mike, we are a war economy! my friend a proud citizen can't speak out with a voice for innocent killings because
      oil is our breathing we cannot live without oil,that is our raw gold my buddy! 35 years I have seen the killing in the name of freedom and democracy,looks ugly Man! We can't fight against our own literacy rate,poverty,with this four years of
      we have lost much flow of exports. sure we will come out with bad guys.

      March 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nana Kwesi

      Mike, I do agree with you on the fact hat this Libyan 'occupation' under the guise of a 'no-fly-zone' is a total waste of tax payers money. President Obama is acting like a toothless bulldog and Sarkozy and Cameron like mad-dogs infected with rabbies. Now tell me, what is the point in such an interest in Libya when there is an uprising in Syria, Jordan and Yemen? Why don't we see the United States taking similar actions? The whole Libya issue is about oil! The rebels are now being backed by the coalition to oust Gaddhafi? Ain't that pathetic, since that wasn't part of the resolution!
      In fact, Obama came into power because he was against the Iraq war and his decision in Libya would send him out..NO second term! hE'S A MUPPET!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy

    @Joe: You're probably right.

    March 28, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Lori

    Joe Joe Joe Joe Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Right here.

      March 28, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Martha

    I'm done with any wars in the middle east until we can figure out who we are helping and who we are not. I don't care where the protests are. First, we're trying to protect the "freedom" seeking people and then we end up finding out we're actually helping those who fought along side Al-Qaeda, which to me, is a bigger atrocity or is this the turning point where we forget about 9/11 and Bin Laden just because we haven't been able to find him and now we have egg on our face?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      So you're saying this northern axis of unrest in Africa is generated by Osama Bin Laden himself or prototype?!?!?

      March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Rags

      It's all about oil. Without oil, a country has difficulty getting any other country to commit.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nana Kwesi

      Thank you Martha! You should probably be hired as Obama's adviser! I don't even know what advise Suzan Rice, Samantha Power and Hilary Clinton are giving him! Now the people of Libya are split...the rebels and the pro-Gaddhafi supporters! Why does it now look like the rebels are being backed by the coalition? Does that suffice that the rebels are being given legitimacy? wow, what have the west come to? America indeed has no permanent friends but permanent interest! Democracy is a process and must never be forced..after all, how many countries in the middle-east are practicing true democracy? Let Gaddafi be!

      March 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Calvin

    Martha I agree with you.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. Charles

    It said in the Dictionary open armed comflict as beween nations. Any active hostility or struggle.miliitary operations as a science.I,n a state of active armed conflict.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. downwithneonazies

    guess what the war-mongers have in common.

    zionism.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mr. T

    Charles we don't need a websters to know what a war is. I pity you fool. Mmmmm I just pity you fool!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Rubiclippers

      this IS a war. But in my opinion.. stop trying to please just about everyone.. Go in there and take this madman out.. Just hope we're not paving the way for Al Qaeda.. cause if we are.. we're gonna be in Libya for a very long time. 😦

      March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      I pity the fool(s) who believes it is just incidental that these independent nations are experiencing simultaneously unrest.

      March 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
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