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.


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Filed under: Algeria • Bahrain • Egypt • Libya • Tunisia • Yemen
Libya's press restrictions: This time, the revolution may not be televised
Press restrictions in Libya make it difficult to get images out of the country.
February 21st, 2011
05:31 PM ET

Libya's press restrictions: This time, the revolution may not be televised

Many readers are wondering why CNN’s coverage of protests in Libya isn’t teeming with the photos, videos and first-person accounts that made our reports out of Tunisia and Egypt so riveting.

The easy answer? They’re different animals.

In Egypt, CNN was able to walk among the protesters and gather their stories (and even be attacked by them), but practical and legal restrictions in Libya make such open coverage impossible. With the exception of a handful of accounts out of Benghazi, CNN cannot immediately confirm most reports.

The Libyan government maintains a firm grip on communications and has not responded to repeated CNN requests for access. We have interviewed numerous witnesses over the phone, but on Monday, it appeared that the country's internet connections and mobile phone networks had either slowed considerably or been shut down.

We’re not the only media outlet experiencing difficulties.


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Tunisia now, and where it's going
Demonstrators shout and wave signs in front of the Tunisian parliament on Monday in Tunis.
February 8th, 2011
04:42 PM ET

Tunisia now, and where it's going

A transitional government is overseeing sweeping changes in Tunisia after massive demonstrations forced out the country's longtime president and sparked similar protests across the Middle East.

Under president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the news media was tightly controlled. Internet activity was monitored and access to some sites was restricted. Police routinely stopped people without cause to check their identity and question them - it was a policy that the government said was needed to prevent terrorists from gaining a foothold in Tunisia. Tunisians limited what they spoke about with friends and neighbors for fear that someone might be a police informer.

Today, internet filters have disappeared and there is unfettered access to all websites. Journalists are learning how to create a free press as they transform their newspapers, radio broadcasts and television stations. People express their opinions openly in the streets. Reforms are taking place in every region of the country, which is home to about 12 million people.

The question is, will these changes last?


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Young, educated and underemployed: the face of the Arab world's protesters
January 28th, 2011
10:53 PM ET

Young, educated and underemployed: the face of the Arab world's protesters

Images of unrest from the streets of Egypt and Tunisia this month revealed mostly male crowds of protesters in jeans and leather jackets, hoodies and argyle sweaters, baseball caps and flannel shirts - not exactly the bearded Islamist traditionally associated with revolt in the Arab world.

Who are these people and what are they fighting for? They are the young and unemployed, or underemployed, many with advanced degrees struggling to find jobs to support themselves and their families. Many have lived their entire lives under the same leader and want change, believing that it will lead to a better life.

Muslim-majority countries in North Africa and the Middle East have the highest percentage of young people in the world, with 60 percent of the regions' people under 30, according to study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

With unemployment rates at 10 percent or more, those countries also have the highest regional rates of joblessness in the world, reports an article published in "Foreign Policy" titled, "The Arab World's Youth Army."


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Behind the unrest in Yemen
Thousands of Yemenis attend a protest Thursday calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign after being in power since 1978.
January 28th, 2011
07:50 PM ET

Behind the unrest in Yemen

The people of Yemen have joined the protests in the Middle East and Africa against long-running regimes.

The unrest in Yemen - the poorest country in the Arab world - would not be as significant on its own. Within the context of uprisings in nearby countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, however, it takes on a new meaning, said Asef Bayat, professor of sociology and Middle Easter Studies at the University of Illinois.

"The demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia has caused a 'demonstration effect,'" says Bayat.

Half of Yemen’s population is illiterate, so if the young and educated spread their message against President Ali-Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year reign to tribal leaders, a groundswell of tribes may join in.

Click the audio link to hear the complete story:

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Social media's role in North Africa's unrest
Protesters in Tunisia rely on social media to help plan demonstrations, experts say.
January 27th, 2011
04:19 PM ET

Social media's role in North Africa's unrest

There has been a common thread in the recent political upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt: Social media has played a role in both influencing the protests and reporting on them.

"Social media is key to the revolution taking place in North Africa, and this may actually be the first time a government leader has lost power because of social media," said Darrell West, the vice president for governance studies at the Brookings Institution, referring to the ousting of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

However, social media isn't strictly a tool for those with a gripe with their government. Governments themselves have shown a willingness to use websites like Twitter for their own means in the wake of unrest, according to James Carafano, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.


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Thousands protest in rare Cairo mass uprising
January 25th, 2011
12:29 PM ET

Thousands protest in rare Cairo mass uprising

Thousands of protesters spilled into the streets of Cairo on Tuesday, an unprecedented display of anti-government rage inspired in part by the tumult in the nearby North African nation of Tunisia.

Throngs in the sprawling city marched from the huge Tahrir Square in Cairo toward the parliament building, according to CNN reporters on the scene.

Demonstrators threw rocks at police and police hurled back rocks. Tear-gas canisters were shot at demonstrators and the protesters threw them back.

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Protesters march in Tunis amid Arab League fears
Residents protest in the center of Tunis on Wednesday.
January 19th, 2011
10:54 AM ET

Protesters march in Tunis amid Arab League fears

Protesters angered over living conditions and government corruption staged a noisy but peaceful rally in Tunisia's capital Wednesday, and an Arab League official said the unrest illustrates "the greatsocial shakes that are inflicting Arab societies."

"It is on everybody's mind that the Arab spirit is broken. The Arab spirit is down by poverty, unemployment, and the general decline in the real indicators of development," Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League said at an economic summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

In Tunis, crowds of people tramped down Avenue Habib Bourguiba, singing the country's national anthem and chanting against the former ruling party and the former president, who fled the country last week amid the countrywide grass-roots uprising.

Tunisian protesters decry new government's 'leftovers' from old regime
Police clash with demonstrators at a small protest rally in Tunisia.
January 18th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

Tunisian protesters decry new government's 'leftovers' from old regime

As many as 1,000 protesters took to the streets in the Tunisian capital Tuesday, calling the country's new unity government a sham and demanding that more should be done to sweep the old guard out of power.

One day after opposition leaders joined the current ruling party in a new government to replace ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, roving packs of protesters in central Tunis staged demonstrations, eyewitnesses said.

When peaceful gatherings started to grow in size, witnesses said, police would step in and start firing tear gas and chase protesters with their batons. There were at least a half dozen people beaten up, eyewitnesses said, and one man's arm was broken.


Filed under: Protest • Tunisia
New Tunisian government could be announced Monday
Demonstrators clash with police in Tunisia Monday.
January 17th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

New Tunisian government could be announced Monday

A new Tunisian government could be announced Monday, one day after the country's army clashed with armed gangs and remnants of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's personal guard.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday after ruling the country for 23 years. His ouster followed weeks of protest over what Tunisians said were poor living conditions, high unemployment, government corruption and repression.

Public protests continued Monday, as about two thousand people packed into a major road in Tunis. As the demonstrators tried to work their way toward the headquarters of the ruling party, police opened fire with tear gas.

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Troops battle ex-ruler's bodyguards in Tunisia
January 16th, 2011
02:37 PM ET

Troops battle ex-ruler's bodyguards in Tunisia

Tunisia's army clashed with armed gangs in the capital and remnants of ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's personal guard Sunday as an opposition figure said leaders have agreed on a new

Government troops appeared to have retaken the presidential palace in the seaside suburb of Carthage by Sunday evening, but sporadic gunfire continued around the neighborhood as night fell, said Mohamad Guiga, a nearby resident.

"It is a battle zone," Guiga told CNN by telephone from his home, about 1 kilometer away from the palace. "From time to time, we hear some shooting. The fire is very clear," he added.

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Interim leader sees 'democracy for all children of Tunis'
January 15th, 2011
02:42 PM ET

Interim leader sees 'democracy for all children of Tunis'

Tunisia's acting president on Saturday called for "a new phase" in his embattled land, envisioning "a better political life which will include democracy, plurality and active participation for all the children of Tunis."

Fouad Mebazaa was sworn in as the country's acting leader Saturday after Tunisia's longtime authoritarian president and his family took refuge in Saudi Arabia, a flight sparked by days of angry street protests against the government.

Speaking on national TV, Mebazaa, who had been the country's parliamentary speaker, promised to ensure the nation's "stability," respect its constitution and "pursue the best interest of the nation."

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Official: Prison fire kills 42 in Tunisia
Demonstrators fill the street outside a government building Friday in Tunis, Tunisia.
January 15th, 2011
09:13 AM ET

Official: Prison fire kills 42 in Tunisia

At least 42 detainees died in a fire at the Monastir prison in Tunisia on Saturday, a hospital official told CNN.

The country is undergoing a popular uprising that led President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to give up his powers and flee the country.

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A state of emergency in crisis-ridden Tunisia
A demonstrator throws a rock at police, who deployed troops and tear gas to disperse protests in Tunis on Friday.
January 14th, 2011
12:46 PM ET

A state of emergency in crisis-ridden Tunisia

Tunisia's president - whose country has been embattled by weeks of street protests over poor living conditions and repression of rights - has dissolved the government and declared a state of emergency, state TV said Friday.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who announced concessions to meet some grievances the day before in a nationally televised TV address, made the moves in reaction to the instability in the North African country.

Officials said the reason for the emergency declaration is to protect Tunisians and their private property. People are not allowed on the street from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

People in gatherings of three or more will be arrested or they will be fired on if they try to run away and can't be stopped.

Ben Ali also will call for parliamentary elections within six months. The government sacking comes days after the president dumped the interior minister and fired a couple of aides.

Earlier Friday, police, wielding batons and firing tear gas, dispersed demonstrators, a show of force that aggravated a peaceful gathering in the capital.

Security forces were seen brutally beating protesters, and the demonstrators fled amid the security show of force. Fires were seen in the center of Tunis and downtown, and smoke was coming from a couple of locations.

The unrest underscores concerns among Tunisians and in the international community that security forces have been badly overreacting to peaceful gatherings

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