June 4th, 2012
09:47 AM ET

Source: Militia seizes airport in Libyan capital

A militia group has seized control of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya, a security source said Monday.

Two platoons of the Tarhouna militia moved in overnight because of an ongoing dispute with the national government, sparked by the disappearance of a militia leader on the airport road Sunday, the source said.

The Libyan government sent emissaries to meet with the militia group Sunday night, Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Karim Ahmed Bazama said. The talks were continuing Monday.

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Filed under: Africa • Libya • World
May 8th, 2012
03:16 PM ET

Bomb chief al-Asiri considered one of al Qaeda’s biggest threats

The recent seizure by U.S. and other intelligence agents of an explosive device designed to be secretly carried aboard an airliner by a suicide bomber has put one of al Qaeda's master bomb-makers back into an international spotlight.

U.S. officials haven’t said whether they believe Ibrahim al-Asiri – the chief bomb-maker for Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - built the device, which they say was recovered two weeks ago after a tip from Saudi Arabia.

But U.S. officials say the group is responsible, and that the device is an evolution of the bomb that was used in a failed attack on a Christmas Day 2009 flight to Detroit – a bomb that U.S. officials believe al-Asiri built.

It’s not clear how the most recent bomb differed from the so-called underwear bomber's apparatus in that 2009 incident. A U.S. official said that like the earlier device, it was “non-metallic” and therefore harder for airport security scanners to detect. But it’s “clear that AQAP is revamping its bomb techniques to try to avoid the cases of the failure of the 2009 device,” the official said.

Regardless of whether al-Asiri made the latest bomb, U.S. intelligence officials believe he’s one of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's most dangerous operatives.  They believe the device comes from the group, and that al-Asiri has been involved in at least three of the group's international bomb plots:  a failed 2009 attempt to kill Saudi prince Mohammed bin Nayef; the failed 2009 Christmas airplane bombing; and a foiled 2010 attempt to send printer bombs to the United States aboard cargo planes.


On the ground: A dark, dangerous journey across Niger to Libya
September 21st, 2011
10:55 PM ET

On the ground: A dark, dangerous journey across Niger to Libya

Dark shadows were lifting themselves off the sidewalk, slowly stretching, shaking the slumber from their limbs.

It was 6:15 a.m. in Niger's capital, Niamey, and I was setting off on a 12-hour drive, leaving its lush boulevards for Agadez, the sands of the Sahara, the desert trails to Libya, and the chaos Moammar Gadhafi's war there is causing.

The sun had yet to raise itself over the roofs but already the first hints of day were breaking the sleep of the destitute at the roadside.

I have seen poverty before, but even shrouded in the predawn gray, there is no mistaking it: People with little of anything save a public place to lay their heads.


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Filed under: Libya • Niger • World
CNN Exclusive: Lockerbie bomber comatose, near death, family says
CNN found Abdel Basset al-Megrahi under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa Sunday.
August 28th, 2011
05:05 PM ET

CNN Exclusive: Lockerbie bomber comatose, near death, family says

Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is comatose, near death and likely to take secrets of the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 to his grave.

CNN found al-Megrahi under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa Sunday, surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip. The cancer-stricken former Libyan intelligence officer may be the last man alive who knows precisely who in the Libya government authorized the bombing, which killed 270 people.

"We just give him oxygen. Nobody gives us any advice," his son, Khaled al-Megrahi, told CNN.

Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi was freed from a prison in Scotland in 2009 after serving eight years of a life sentence for blowing up the Pan Am jet, killing all 259 on board and 11 in the town of Lockerbie below. Doctors who had been treating him for prostate cancer gave him just three months to live, and he was released on compassionate grounds.

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Filed under: Libya • Terrorism
Rebels say Gadhafi holed up; broadcast tells Libyans to stay in Tripoli, fight
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, seen here in November, is surrounded at an apartment complex in Tripoli, rebels say.
August 25th, 2011
02:13 PM ET

Rebels say Gadhafi holed up; broadcast tells Libyans to stay in Tripoli, fight

[Updated at 4:54 p.m.] An agreement has been reached in the U.N. Security Council to release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the country's fledgling rebel government, diplomats said Thursday.

[Updated at 2:13 p.m.] Gadhafi loyalists have destroyed an empty Libyan airline passenger plane parked at the international airport in Tripoli.

[Updated at 11:54 a.m.] A message purportedly from Moammar Gadhafi was aired Thursday on a loyalist radio station.

The speaker urged people not to leave Tripoli "for the rats." It further implored listeners to "Go out into the streets and fight."

CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of the recording. Gadhafi has previously described his adversaries before as rats.

[Updated at 10:49 a.m.] The main source of the opposition's supplies is coming from fighters loyal to Gadhafi. As the rebels win battles, they gather up the enemy's weaponry and equipment to add to their own arsenal.

In Ras Lanuf, home to an oil refinery capable of producing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day, a long line of trucks awaited refueling. Most of the trucks had been taken from Moammar Gadhafi's loyalists and been retrofitted with heavy weaponry, including anti-aircraft guns and a rocket launcher.

Ras Lanuf is about 125 miles from Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown and one of the Libyan leader's last strongholds.

Gadhafi has a $1.4 million bounty on his head, but despite claims that he is holed up in an apartment complex in Tripoli, observers are skeptical because of a past rebel assertion that they knew where the Libyan leader was hiding and another announcement that they had captured his son, Saif al-Islam. Neither were accurate.

[Updated at 10:15 a.m.] There has been sporadic but intense artillery fire throughout day near Tripoli International Airport as rebels try to capture the highway connecting the airport and the capital. The airport is about 17 miles south of the capital.


June 18th, 2011
05:06 PM ET

Sources: Pakistan knew about increased U.S. activity in Abbottabad

Pakistan was aware of increased U.S. intelligence activity in the country weeks before the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, an Arab diplomat with direct knowledge of the events and a senior Pakistani official told CNN Saturday.

The two sources offered slightly different versions of who knew what, when.

The diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said Pakistan knew about the heightened intelligence activity, specifically in the city of Abbottabad, but "never, never had any idea the operation was about bin Laden." The diplomat was approached privately by a Pakistani to inquire about heightened U.S. intelligence-gathering activities. He said it was assumed Pakistan was asking all Arab allies.

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Filed under: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • U.S.
ICC requests arrest warrants for Gadhafi, two others
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi seen on Libyan state TV last week.
May 16th, 2011
07:41 AM ET

ICC requests arrest warrants for Gadhafi, two others

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his brother-in-law, saying there is evidence Gadhafi has committed crimes against humanity in his efforts to maintain hold over the country in a months-long battle.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office "gathered direct evidence about orders issued by Moammar Gadhafi himself, direct evidence of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi organizing the recruitment of mercenaries and direct evidence of the participation of (Abdullah) al-Sanussi in the attacks against demonstrators." Al-Sanussi, the brother-in-law, is Gadhafi's head of intelligence and chief enforcer.

"The evidence shows that civilians were attacked in their homes; demonstrations were repressed using live ammunition; heavy artillery was used against participants in funeral processions, and snipers placed to kill those leaving the mosques after the prayers," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.

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Filed under: Libya
Pakistan arrests dozens in connection with bin Laden compound
Pakistani Police guard the sealed main gate of the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.
May 6th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Pakistan arrests dozens in connection with bin Laden compound

Dozens of people in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad have been arrested because of their suspected connections to the compound where Osama bin Laden was shot and killed, a Pakistani intelligence official said Friday.

Some of the individuals were arrested around the compound and investigators still need to determine if any of the people arrested have any connection with al Qaeda.

This story is developing. We'll bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism
Taxi driver remains in Libyan jail after giving ride to CNN crew, source says
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson has been covering the situation in Libya.
March 17th, 2011
06:37 PM ET

Taxi driver remains in Libyan jail after giving ride to CNN crew, source says

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson gave an account last week of how forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi detained him and his crew, along with the taxi driver who had given them a ride. This is his update on the taxi driver:

The day after government gunmen brutally detained us, we were told our innocent taxi driver had been released.

We'd last seen him being driven away by the same thugs who'd bundled us into their cars and dumped us at our hotel gates. He was shaking, could barely speak, appeared traumatized by the utter bad luck that had befallen him for simply giving us a ride.

In any other country, his behavior would be treated normally. He was a taxi driver stopping to give potential fare-paying passengers a ride.

But not here. Not in Libya.


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Filed under: Libya
Robertson: Gadhafi thugs grabbed me and my crew
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson has been covering the situation in Libya.
March 11th, 2011
08:44 PM ET

Robertson: Gadhafi thugs grabbed me and my crew

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson and his crew were detained Friday in Tajura, Libya, east of Tripoli by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. This is his account.

For a few moments today, for us personally, Libya’s lies and deceit were swept aside and the real deal was brutally exposed.

“Itla, itla” - "Get in the car, get in the car!" - he was screaming. My cameraman, Khalil Abdallah, and I hesitated for a split-second. But that's all it was.

We were staring down the barrel of an AK-47, the weapon was jumping in his hands. He was cocking it, wrenching the handle back, a bullet being slammed into the firing chamber.

It was only a split-second.

We are free to go anywhere, any time, talk to who we want, when we want. That's what Moammar Gadhafi’s son told me, that's what Libya told the U.N. We already knew it was all lies - look at any number of our colleagues, arrested, detained, in some cases, beaten - but today it came home to us personally.

The hyper-aggressive jerk with the gun had just hit the jackpot.

There was him and three others. They were grabbing us, bundling us towards their pickup truck. He had a pistol in his belt, one of the others kept his AK trained on us too, and an older guy with the grey beard was speed-dialing his phone.

These are Gadhafi’s enforcers. They were looking for us.`


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Filed under: Libya
Egypt calls in shark experts after attacks
December 7th, 2010
07:49 AM ET

Egypt calls in shark experts after attacks

Shark experts began arriving in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday to investigate what led to four attacks over the last week that killed a German woman and injured three snorkelers, officials said.

The behavioral experts will form an advisory team to assess and advise on the best course of action following the attacks, according to Jochen Van Lysebettens, general operations manager of the Red Sea Diving College in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The tab for the expert advise is being picked up by the Ministry of Tourism. Van Lysebettens said the reason behind the shark attacks needs to be determined in order to stop it.

Sharm el-Sheikh beach will remain closed until the shark responsible for Sunday's fatal attack is found, according to Egypt's Interior Ministry. A 70-year-old woman, a regular guest at the resort, was snorkeling near a reef on Sunday when she was attacked, he said.


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Filed under: Egypt
October 4th, 2010
09:54 AM ET

Hamburg cell at heart of terrorist plot against Europe

A group of jihadists from the German city of Hamburg are alleged to be at the heart of the recent al Qaeda plot to launch co-ordinated terrorist attacks against European cities, according to European intelligence officials.

The plan prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a Europe-wide security advisory for Americans traveling in Europe.

Japan issued a similar alert Monday, citing the warnings issued by the United States and by Britain, which raised the level highest for France and Germany.


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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Europe • France • Germany • Terrorism • U.S. • United Kingdom
July 13th, 2010
02:14 PM ET

Security Brief: Punjabi Taliban

The frontier territories in the mountainous north of Pakistan are used to terrorism. But U.S. and Pakistani officials are looking with unease at its spread to the country’s most important and populous province: Punjab.

This month, an attack on a Sufi shrine in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, killed at least 40 people and injured nearly 200. It was the latest in a series of deadly gun and bomb attacks in Lahore. Last month, Taliban attacked two mosques of the Ahmadi sect (which is regarded as non-Muslim by Sunni extremists in Pakistan). Some 80 worshipers were killed.

The Taliban denied that they were responsible for the attack on the shrine, but Pakistani officials speak of a new loose alliance of militant groups emerging, one they call the Punjabi Taliban.

The interior minister, Rehman Malik, said, “Factually speaking, the proscribed organizations are of course from Punjab, most of them.”

He was referring to 17 banned organizations that have their origins and headquarters in Punjab – organizations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has links with al Qaeda, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. And some of the groups have become influential in mainstream politics.

And that's a worry. Punjab's stability is vital: It is the country's breadbasket, its industrial heartland, home to more than half the country's population and most of its military and political establishment.

But in Pakistan, nothing is simple. The federal government in Islamabad plays up the threat of the Punjabi Taliban because it says the main opposition party, which runs Punjab, has colluded with extremist organizations. Malik belongs to the governing Pakistan People’s Party; the chief minister of Punjab is Shabaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League. Sharif throws the same accusation back at politicians of the PPP and complains of a lack of cooperation from the military in dealing with outlawed groups.

Even the Lahore police chief gives conflicting signals about the threat facing his men, who have been frequent targets of suicide bombings.

“This is a very wrong notion," Aslam Tareem said, “the impression that there is a Punjabi Taliban, which means there are some camps and training camps in the south of Punjab ... but there are not.”

But moments later, Tareem acknowledged the danger posed by Punjabi Taliban. He says they are trained by Taliban in the lawless tribal border regions, experienced fighters and bomb-makers. And he says his men have recently recovered a staggering 6,000 kilograms – more than 6 tons – of explosives.

Moderate clerics in Punjab want decisive action against extremists before the situation gets out of control. Mulana Raghib Naeemi, whose father was killed last year for speaking out against the Taliban, says that just issuing a banning order against militant groups serves no purpose.

“[The] government should ban terrorist groups completely, not only on the name but also on their working, on their leaders and on their literature,” he said.

After the shrine bombing, Sufi leaders also demanded immediate action to tackle Sunni militancy in Punjab and the resignation of one Punjab minister who had received support from the militant Sipah-e-Sahaba group during an election campaign this year. The group was banned in 2002.

Our own reporting suggests that Sipah-e-Sahaba operates freely. We caught up with its Secretary-General Khadim Hassain Dhellon.

“I have hundreds of thousands of followers,” he said. “If I'm arrested, they'll join the Taliban in the tribal region.”

He doubts he will be detained, claiming to have helped some of the country's most powerful politicians get elected by campaigning with them and telling his supporters to vote for them.

The fear among observers here is that as the political parties score points and exchange accusations, the militant groups will continue to grow in Punjab. For months, the government failed to take decisive action against the Taliban as they gained strength in the mountains near the capital Islamabad. When it finally sent the army in, the battles displaced hundreds of thousands of people. That sort of offensive in the densely populated rural plains of Punjab is not possible. Nor is it one that army commanders, their forces already stretched in the frontier regions, would entertain.

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Filed under: Security Brief
May 10th, 2010
02:30 PM ET

Security Brief: Analysis: Exploring middle class jihadists

Afghan native Najibullah Zazi confessed to plotting to use weapons of mass destruction in a suicide bomb attack on the New York subway.

They are middle-class, some (by their home country's standards) even well-off. They are often college educated. They are settled in the United States or elsewhere in the West, far from the chaos or sectarian strife of their homelands; they are supposedly "assimilated." But somehow they cast off a life of comfort and drift toward extreme views before embracing political violence inspired by a sense of grievance or alienation.

It is a pattern seen time and again as terrorist plots have been uncovered in the United States. Afghan native Najibullah Zazi; Pakistani-American David Headley; Bryant Neal Vinas, the U.S.-born son of Latino immigrants; and Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with trying to bring down an airliner over Detroit, Michigan, on December 25.


March 23rd, 2010
09:21 PM ET

Libya frees jihad leaders in peace bid

Libyan authorities Tuesday released three top leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, successfully concluding a three-year peace process that has produced an alliance against al Qaeda.


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Filed under: Libya • World