Return to Transcripts main page


Uprising: Region in Revolt

Aired March 27, 2011 - 21:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Under the protection of NATO air strikes, Libyan rebels are sweeping west again, advancing on the capital of Tripoli. There has been some intense fighting along the way.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: The Arab awakening has now spread to Syria. Violence and protests and calls for change. Will the government there buckle?

LEMON: These latest developments come after an incredible few months in the region which has seen massive demonstrations and the toppling of governments.

VAUSE: And across the region, governments are now digging in from Bahrain to Yemen, setting the stage possibly for more bloodshed.

LEMON: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm Don Lemon.

VAUSE: Hello, I'm John Vause from CNN International.

LEMON: A region mired in conflict for thousands of years now a fever for revolution seeming to spread from country to country. It's all happening, John, with lightning speed.

VAUSE: That's right. Libya the country at the center of the turmoil right now, a coalition of countries raining missiles down on Moammar Gadhafi's defenses and his military in the name of protecting civilians. Rebels today seized control of two cities, Ras Lanuf and Brega.

And NATO ok'd a plan to take over responsibility for the operation in Libya.

LEMON: And Syria, a source close to the government expects the country's cabinet to resign next week as anti-government protests turn up the pressure. President Bashar al-Assad is expected to address the country in the next few days. Two Reuters journalist have been missing in Syria since last night.

VAUSE: Bahrain, another country violently suppressing dissent. Last week, troops cleared protesters out of Pearl square with force. Then they tore down an iconic monument at the center of the square which had become a symbol of revolt.

LEMON: And in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is fighting to hold on to power. The country suffers from corruption, high unemployment and a severe lack of political freedom. Saleh says he will offer no more concessions to demonstrators.

VAUSE: And let's go to Libya right now, the country seeing the most intense fighting. We have an update on the story that captivated CNN viewers around the woman -- around the world, rather. A woman making a desperate plea to journalist at a Libyan hotel -- she claimed rape and abuse at the hands of Moammar Gadhafi's men.

LEMON: Yes, it's very disturbing to watch, she was roughed up and manhandled by security before being hauled up to possibly never be heard from again. And tonight the Libyan government says she's been released.

Our Nic Robertson is at the hotel where this all happened. So Nic, where is this woman right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, SENIOR CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know where she is right now. The government officials have told us various stories in the past 24 hours. They said that she was taken to a mental hospital and then a few hours later they said she was at the police investigation headquarters where she was being held to file charges against the men she accuses of raping her.

And then this evening, government officials have said that she had been released to the care of her family. But there were early indications at this stage that her family are saying they're not aware of that.

The government has been at pains to smear the Eman al-Obeidy's reputation. The spokesman, the government spokesman on the record, accusing her of being a prostitute. At the press conference I asked him about that statement.



ROBERTSON: (INAUDIBLE) -- you have been on the record yourself describing --

IBRAHIM: Could we not -- Nic, could we not discuss her -- no, no. Listen.


Ibrahim: Nic -- Nic -- Nic -- could -- could we please, this is a very -- Nic, please. Could we just -- to respect her, her daughter, her family, respect -- this is a very conservative society.

Could we not expose her in public, please? Could we let -- I mean, what do you care about, Nic? Ok, not to embarrass me as I'm standing here on the stand. What you care about, Nic -- ok.

Listen, if I said something I said what I knew, ok? I don't want to repeat anything I said. I'm not withdrawing from what I said. I'm saying is I don't want to make it even more known, even more public. This is a criminal case. This woman has a family. We need to protect her privacy, her daughter's rights when she grows up. We need to make this as criminal case as legal case as possible without talking about people's histories, their files and their previous crimes or their lifestyle.

Especially we live in a very conservative society. So as a sign of respect to this woman and hopefully and I'm quite sure, by the way, the ok from them will come, but they are calming her down now.


ROBERTSON: Well, the government's effort to smear Eman al-Obeidy's name really seems aimed at discrediting everything that she's been saying against the regime who the people whom she blames for taking her into custody, tying her up and for raping her. There are a lot of questions still remain about her safety and her well-being and exactly where she is and a lot of journalists here are trying to pursue that right now -- Don, John.

VAUSE: Yes, and Nic in the midst of all of this of course, the -- the air strikes continue. A short time ago you heard some more blasts around Tripoli?

ROBERTSON: There have been. In the last, I would say, 30 minutes there have been a couple of more loud explosions here, perhaps three or four and some anti-aircraft gun fire as well. About -- or about six hours ago there were six loud explosions that came very close together, similar to ones we heard just half an hour ago. And that's been unusual to hear so many loud explosions in such a close space of time.

They all sounded as if they were coming at roughly the same location. Hard for us to tell where that is, but it seems to be at least fairly close to the center of Tripoli here, perhaps within a few miles or so, but very difficult for us to say what the target was. But this has been different to hear these multiple explosions coming in such a close space of time -- John.

LEMON: Hey Nic, do you get a sense that this operation, Operation: Odyssey Dawn is starting to wear down Gadhafi and his supporters?

ROBERTSON: It certainly seems to be having an impact, the fact that rebels have been able to advance so far across the country from the east moving westward. Gadhafi's forces have been seen reported pulling out of Sirte which is credited with being as his strong hold and sort of half way between where they -- where the rebels began in Benghazi in the capital here of Tripoli.

So the rebels have made significant advances. The government here says that the coalition is wounding and killing civilians. They've shown us no evidence of that, but they're saying that the coalition is essentially becoming the air wing of the rebels and clearing the path for them.

They say that it shows a clear conspiracy from the international community to come into Libya to try to steal and take advantage of its oil here. But it does seem to be having that impact, and not only that psychological impact, but a real impact on the army here. The army appears to be retreating significantly across the country and in the capital here we're seeing long lines at gas stations half a mile long for people to get fuel -- Don, John.

VAUSE: Nic Robertson live for us in Tripoli. Thank you, Nic.

LEMON: And Libyan rebels are pushing westward from their strong hold in Benghazi. Today as we mentioned they overtook two key cities.

VAUSE: Yes this is moving been incredibly quickly. Reza Sayah is standing by in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi right now.

Reza, all of this is -- is moving with incredible speed that the opposition forces are moving very quickly towards Tripoli. Where do they stand right now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the rebel forces are spreading. They're spreading from the east of us where they're playing more of a protective role and protecting the territory that they have gained for a long time now all the way west towards Ras Lanuf. That is the front line right now.

Ras Lanuf is right in the middle of the coastline in northern Libya. That's the latest city the opposition forces have captured.

Of course, over the past couple of days they had remarkable momentum capturing Ajdabiya after a fight of several days, then Brega, in a key oil town, Ras Lanuf. And now they have their eyes set on the next key town which is in Bin Jawah (ph).

But when you talk to people here in the opposition capital of Benghazi, they are riding a high on this momentum. They are envisioning a Libya without Moammar Gadhafi. And they say the mission remains the same and that's to move forward and move westward towards Tripoli until they see Gadhafi fall from power.

LEMON: And how much of this movement can be credited toward the coalition strikes if at all, Reza?

SAYAH: Well, I think all you have to do is look at March 19th. That's the day when this no-fly zone was implemented and within hours it seemed as if opposition forces started moving westward.

They were stuck in between Benghazi where we are, in Ajdabiya. Once the no-fly zone was put in place, once those aggressive air strikes started; that's when the opposition started rolling.

Several times they tried to infiltrate Ajdabiya. They couldn't. Saturday, they finally did. Ajdabiya was protected by a number of tank units. When you look at those tank units that are destroyed, you can tell they haven't been destroyed by AK-47s and rocket launchers. These are jet missiles.

The opposition forces won't tell you that the credit goes to these air strikes. But I don't think there's any question that those air strikes facilitated this move westward and this new momentum that the opposition has right now.

VAUSE: And right now, Reza, the Turkish prime minister, the Italian foreign minister offering to broker some kind of cease-fire and offer a safe passage for Gadhafi to leave the country. Is that even being considered where you are?

SAYAH: We're not hearing about a cease-fire right now here in Benghazi. Again, they're envisioning a Libya without Moammar Gadhafi and they are riding a high right now and they don't want to break their momentum with any talk of a cease-fire. At least that's not what we're hearing.

And I think any talk of a cease-fire must include -- must include a Libya without Moammar Gadhafi. If you're talking about a cease-fire where he is still in power I think there is no question that the opposition would reject that.

LEMON: Ok. So the rebels say that they have signed an oil contract, Reza, with Qatar to export oil from rebel held territory. They seized a key oil town today. Is that goal realistic, or is it overly optimistic?

SAYAH: Well, it depends when they want to do it. It may not be realistic that they say they're going to start exporting more than 100,000 barrels of oil in the next week or so, but some of these export facilities that are still intact and they haven't been destroyed by Gadhafi forces, there's no reason that they couldn't use them.

Remember many of these people who worked in these facilities from the workers to the management, they're opposition supporters. So again, if the facilities are intact there's no reason why they can't get them going. Maybe a week, that's unrealistic.

LEMON: Reza Sayah in Benghazi. Thank you, Reza.

VAUSE: You can hear the dogs barking in the background there during Reza's live shot. An indication of just what's going on there in Benghazi right now.

Well, we've heard a lot about the rebels fighting to unseat Moammar Gadhafi. But exactly who are they? It turns out some of the leaders of the rebellion were in fact high-ranking members of the Libyan government just a few weeks ago. We'll take a closer look at that.

LEMON: First, before Libya there was Egypt and Tunisia. What other nations are seeing the call for democracy? Where will rebellion strike next and what governments are already doing to strike it down.


LEMON: We're going to show you how you can become more involved in this and find out more. The pro-democracy convulsions that we're seeing daily now consume much of North Africa and the Middle East. And you can see, they put together this very useful interactive map to show you what is happening and what is happening where.

So we're going to begin here in Tunisia, and if you go online you will see it. It will show you and give you all the latest developments right now.

So Tunisia, this all started there three months ago. Anti-government demonstrations began there in December, but in January those rallies hit critical mass and by the end of the month the country's leader fled the country.

All right.

This stunning development emboldened people right here, if you go to, in Egypt. You can click on it. Again, it will give you the latest developments there. Suddenly large crowds were publicly denouncing their president Hosni Mubarak. Egypt is a major beneficiary of U.S. foreign aid. The U.S. was in the awkward position of supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators without alienating a long-time ally.

After weeks of bloody confrontations and a tense vigil in Tahrir Square, long-time President Mubarak abruptly stepped down.

Now we go to Libya right here in the middle. Again, click on it, it gives you all the latest developments and everything you need to know. Libya has become the focal point of this historic movement. Rebels first swept into dozens of key cities until Moammar Gadhafi unleashed his military forces on his own people. That prompted NATO to get involved leveling the field for the rebels with strategic air strikes.

This fever has now spread to Syria. Again, all the information on

Bahrain, of course, on the map here and also in Yemen as well. Anything can happen -- John.

VAUSE: And Don, truly important questions coming out of all of this, what's going to happen next and why is this happening?

Mohammed Jamjoom is live in our bureau there in Abu Dhabi to try and answer some of these questions.

Mohammed, let's start off with Syria. It appears the Arab awakening has spread there. President Assad facing a tough choice: either meaningful reform or a violent crackdown on protesters.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And we're seeing mixed messages from the government. I'll give you an example.

Earlier today the spokeswoman for the ministry of information announced that this emergency law that's been in place for 48 years in Syria, the one that doesn't allow people from gathering from assembling to express their opinions that that was in the process of being lifted. That seems to be a major concession to one of the demands of the protesters that are out in the streets in various cities in Syria.

And yet, just about a couple of hours later we see on Syrian television announcements urging citizens not to gather in key parts of Damascus where the government is claiming that there are leaflets being distributed for people to come out and rally.

You see the government struggling. What kind of message do they want to present? On the one hand they know they have a problem. They know this protest movement has taken root. More people are angry, they're coming out, they're being defiant. On the other hand the government is saying yes, we're going to see to some of your demands, but they're afraid. They want to keep order and they're not quite sure how to go about doing that just yet -- John.

VAUSE: From Syria we go to Bahrain. The U.S. says there'll be no military strikes on Syria. There certainly won't be any military strikes on U.S.-friendly Bahrain. The opposition had a real chance there for regime change, if you like, but now the government has really come down hard on protesters.

JAMJOOM: Bahrain is still a real concern for neighbors of Bahrain in the region and for allies of Bahrain and I'll tell you why. Bahrain is a country that's 70 percent Shiite with a Sunni government.

Now, in Bahrain you've seen the situation calm a little bit. You've seen a major crackdown that happened earlier this month. You're not seeing the protests going on the way they were before.

But right now you have troops from Gulf Cooperation Council countries in Bahrain. They came in earlier this month and tried to restore order in Bahrain. The people that are there, the protesters are upset that there's a Sunni army, forces from Sunni countries coming in to a majority Shiite country.

There are sectarian tensions in Bahrain. Members of the opposition there say that because of this they've seen this as being a declaration of war upon them. And the people that we speak with the dissidents there say they're going to continue their struggle -- John.

VAUSE: And then now to Yemen where the government has made it very clear that President Saleh who has been in power for 32 years was negotiating for a time with the protesters. Now saying enough. There's been enough concessions and there are concerns that there will be more bloodshed because there already has been a lot of bloodshed in Yemen.

And you've been to Yemen. So, describe what you think will happen next.

JAMJOOM: John, I've been to Yemen numerous times in the past year and a half, and I was there in February when this protest movement was really starting to take root. When I was there, you were just seeing thousands of people in the streets of Sana'a and other parts of the country.

In the last few weeks, tens of thousands of demonstrators every day in the streets of various cities across Yemen. They have one demand; the demand is that President Saleh step aside now.

President Saleh, he's been able to skillfully navigate tribal politics for over 30 years in that country. So, he understands -- or he thinks he understands what to do to survive. He says that he's going to make concessions, that he's going to step down before the end of the year, that he's ready to transfer power peacefully.

But the opposition isn't speaking with him. And even though negotiations are ongoing between him and the military commanders, the fact of the matter is that President Saleh is in the corner. He knows it and protesters are just demanding that he leave.

The one real worrying concern for the U.S. right now: who would fill the shoes of Saleh if he goes? He is seen as a key U.S. ally in the battle on al Qaeda. If he goes, who will fill his shoes and who will help in fighting AQAP? Nobody knows at this point -- John.

VAUSE: And of course, it always can raise the underlying causes for these uprisings seem to be the same: corruption, entrenched government, poverty, economic problems.

Mohammed Jamjoom in Abu Dhabi. Thanks so much.

LEMON: And from country to country, you can really see how it is spreading across the region, and as we have been saying, in lightning speed. And after nearly 50 years, John, a government official says Syria's emergency law will be lifted. The law allows the state to make preventative arrests and bypass constitutional statutes. This major development comes after deadly violence between government forces and protesters who want new leadership.

CNN's Hala Gorani explains how the conflict in Syria played out this week.


HALA GORANI, CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: A scene in Syria that seemed unimaginable just a few days ago. Hundreds of people marched in the streets of the southern city of Daraa. A cycle of protests, deaths and funerals has gripped the city for a week.

More amateur video appears to show Syrian security forces firing towards demonstrators in Wednesday night.

"How could you kill your own people, you are our brothers," shouts the protester. On Thursday we spoke with an activist in Damascus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had the chance to stop this. He has to start listening to the young people of his country. What is happening is devastating.

GORANI: The protests spread Friday to another town in the south, Sanamain. The state news agency said several people who had attacked the army had died. Protesters said they were fired at. As the crisis escalates, the presidency of Bashar al-Assad is facing a defining moment. Assad was not meant rule, but his older brother died in a car accident in 1994. His father and predecessor Hafez al Assad was infamous for dealing with one uprising by massacring thousands of people in the city of Hama in 1982.

When he took power in 2000, Bashar al Assad promised reform and dialogue, but critics say he didn't deliver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those protests were supposed to be peaceful asking for liberty and asking for more political freedom in the country. Unfortunately, the regime has turned this into a bloodshed. This can't continue like this. We want reform.

GORANI: Syria has many of the problems that have fueled unrest elsewhere in the Middle East: unemployment, corruption, no democratic elections in decades. Today, the government is blaming outsiders for stoking the trouble, but is also promising wage raises and an investigation into events in Daraa.

BUTHAINA SAARAN, SYRIAN CABINET MINISTER (through translator): Mr. Bashar al Assad does not like to see blood and his instruction was very clear not to shoot at anybody.

GORANI: But the protests continued Friday in several places. This one uploaded to YouTube purportedly in the capital Damascus outside a mosque after Friday prayers.

Many of the protesters now say the wall of fear has collapsed, and they are now emboldened to attack even the very symbols of the state including posters and statues celebrating both Bashar al Assad and his father.

Hala Gorani, CNN, Atlanta.


VAUSE: Well, NATO has a plan for Libya as the conflict and the definition of success grows more complex.

LEMON: We have the story of this man. Some call him a patriot. He told me last month he might not survive the night in Libya. Well, this month his fears, sadly, came true. The legacy of Mohammed Nabus. That's straight ahead.


LEMON: Our coverage of the uprisings in the Mideast and also North Africa continue now. As we have been reporting NATO has approved an operations plan to take over the entire Libyan military mission.

VAUSE: That's right. NATO will be in charge of protecting civilians as well as enforcing no-fly zone, as well as an arms embargo and while there is now a plan of action, CNN's Paula Newton reports, this conflict may not have a military solution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was just about a week ago that the mission began with cool conviction and the hardware to match. Fighter jets screamed towards Libya, obvious military targets in their sites. The coalition was buoyant.

JEREMY "JEZ" ATTRIDGE, ROYAL AIR FORCE PILOT: The way that we're actually formed together as a -- as a unit within the international coalition of nations means that we can meet any task that we're required to fulfill.

NEWTON: As one coalition leader bluntly assessed Gadhafi won't last long. While a week may not be an eternity, the patience of the coalition is already fraying. So as NATO takes over the no-fly zone after little more than a week, there is still much confusion over where this conflict goes next.

(on camera): For jets like these, enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya will be the bread-and-butter of this mission. It is the sensitive targeting in Libya that will be much more difficult going forward.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: All 28 allies are strongly committed to live up fully to the U.N. Security Council resolution in order to protect the civilians in Libya.

NEWTON (voice-over): Don't ask anyone to define how, not just yet. Twenty-eight nations will now share an effective veto on targets on the ground in Libya, striking ground forces with impunity is no longer an option. The tone of this mission has shifted. The touchstones now: caution and precision

Listen to this NATO air commander.

GROUP CAPT. GEOFFREY BOOTH, NATO AIR FORCE COMMAND: No-fly zones are impartial. There is no one authorized to fly within that zone. It's not necessarily a pro-Gadhafi or anti-Gadhafi forces. It's the impartial enforcement in line with the UNSCR over no-fly zone.

NEWTON: A NATO doctrine may take weeks to reveal itself, but already even France seems to have capitulated. Gadhafi is menacing Libya's people and the solution to that may no longer be a military one.

Paula Newton, CNN, Brussels.


LEMON: The military operation in Libya presents some unique challenges to the NATO alliance.

VAUSE: And the turmoil across the entire region from North Africa to the Middle East has world leaders struggling to respond to all of this.

Gordon Chang is keeping an eye on all of these events. He's a columnist at, author of books on both China and North Korea. Good to see you, again Gordon. You wrote an interesting column today calling for essentially military action on Syria and saying there's a good deal of hypocrisy going on here because Syria is not the target of military action. Why is that?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: Well, essentially you have Defense Secretary Gates today admitting that the United States has no vital interest in Libya, but we do have a vital interest in Syria because Syria is an ally of North Korea and Iran; is supplying Hamas and Hezbollah with support, so therefore it is an enemy of Israel. And essentially we have a real problem with Iran.

So, without Syria, Iran becomes especially vulnerable at this moment and therefore we have much greater interest this what goes on in Syria than in Libya.

LEMON: So why not Syria, we've been hearing.

VAUSE: Why not Bahrain?

LEMON: Why not -- yes, why not Bahrain and why not Yemen? All of these countries. Might this cause -- what kind of tension or rift might this cause among NATO allies, if any at all?

CHANG: I think it will cause a lot of tension. You have 28 nations that act on consensus. They're having difficulty coming to agreement on Libya.

Syria is a much more difficult issue for a number of reasons. You don't have the massive use of force by Assad as we saw by Gadhafi in Libya and also the demonstrations are at a much earlier stage. So there are a number of issues about whether it's appropriate for the foreign allies and the coalition to get involved.

But if there is, we have to think about what the national interests of the United States is and what the interest of the international community is and I think it is much greater in Syria than in Libya.

VAUSE: Ok. Let's look at Libya right now though. It's been proven that removing a dictator is a lot more difficult than simply enforcing a no-fly zone. As Gadhafi's saying, he survived for 12 years with a no-fly zone. Could we be seeing the same thing in Libya?

CHANG: We certainly can. When Defense Secretary Gates today was asked, could this go on to the end of the year? He said nobody knows, which really essentially was, yes, it could.

What we can have is Gadhafi fortifying Tripoli and some of the other cities in the west and we sort of see that because he is pulling back his forces away from the cities in the east. And if that's the case then Gadhafi may be able to hold on for quite some time.

Remember, it's hard to use air power in Tripoli without causing civilian deaths and that's certainly, the international community will not tolerate. So essentially, we could have this standoff between Gadhafi and Tripoli and the rebels in the rest of the part of -- the rest of the country.

VAUSE: Ok. Gordon Chang, thanks so much; in Washington for us.


LEMON: Yes, Gordon. Taking up residence in the bureau there in New York, as a matter of fact.

The question is whether or not it's short-sighted not to have part of the mission, at least, to oust Moammar Gadhafi. We shall see.

VAUSE: It wasn't part of the U.N. Resolution, as broad as it was.

LEMON: You know what? They're the faces of this Libyan revolution. Leaders who have taken up the cause against Moammar Gadhafi.

Ironically, just weeks ago they were working side by side with the man they're trying to defeat now. A closer look at Libya's rebels. That's next.

VAUSE: And just weeks ago, we've watched as the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gave in to his citizen, who had been calling for change and handed victory to the people. But how much has really changed? As it turns out, not much.


VAUSE: The U.S. and NATO have chosen to side with the rebels in Libya. They are united by a common opposition to Moammar Gadhafi, but how much do we actually know about who these rebels are?


VAUSE: With coalition planes in control of the skies and Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces taking a pounding --

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We see them beginning to move back to the west, retreating.

VAUSE: -- the rag-tag rebel army is again on the move. This weekend, retaking the city of Ajdabiya. And heading west towards Tripoli, Libya's capital and Colonel Gadhafi's power base. The ultimate goal: regime change.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go.

VAUSE: but little is known about the opposition. Just who is the international coalition supporting.

RICHARD HAS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: In Libya, you have an unbelievably complicated mosaic, an overlay of tribes and families and the rest. So I think anyone who speaks with any confidence that we know what would succeed Gadhafi, if in fact, Gadhafi were to fall or fail, I simply don't buy it. VAUSE: Many of the rebel soldiers are civilians, but some of the leaders were once high-ranking members of Libya's government like the Mustafa Abdel Jalil (ph), a month ago, Gadhafi's justice minister, now head of the opposition. Although once feared, interior minister Abdel Younis is leading the rebel military offensive. Many others, though, remain a mystery.

LESLIE GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We have to understand that in very fluid, revolutionary situations, the bad guys often are at a great advantage over the good guys.

VAUSE: And then there are the radical Islamic groups. A study by the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, found Libya has Islamic fighters per capita to Iraq than any other Muslim country. Most came from eastern Libya, where the current uprising began, an area once described by U.S. diplomats as a breeding ground for Islamic extremists according to WikiLeaks.

But like the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Islamic groups have been lying low in Libya and opposition leaders talk of democracy, freedom and elections once Gadhafi is gone.

For now, at least, the international coalition is taking them at their word.


VAUSE: And as the old saying goes in that part of the world, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

LEMON: One of the most eloquent voices, John, of the Libyan revolution has been silenced. A sniper's bullet killed 27-year-old Mohammed Nabbous last Saturday. In the early days of the revolution, Nabbous dared to report on the uprising in Benghazi despite knowing it would put his life at risk.

Last month, on a day that he watched his friends die, he spoke to us about what he was witnessing in Libya.


LEMON: You believe that your life is in jeopardy just by making this call and talking to us now?

MOHAMMED NABBOUS, LIBYA PROTESTER: Of course. I do. They have already shut down two of my SIM cards -- my personal SIM cards. This is not mine. This is just a random card I was given to be able to speak to you.

LEMON: Thank you so much, and be in touch and be safe, ok?

NABBOUS: I'm not sure I will be there tomorrow because I'm not sure if I'm going to survive tonight, but there's going to be another group tomorrow with you, hopefully.

LEMON: Hang on -- NABBOUS: I haven't got that information.

LEMON: Do you think the situation is that bad that you believe that people won't survive overnight? Is it that bad?

NABBOUS: I'm telling you, my friend has died already and other people died. I don't know what's going to be worse to you.


LEMON: Tough to hear that. At a time when Moammar Gadhafi was pulling a curtain over his campaign of terror, Nabbous shed some light on the horror of war.

Mohammed Nabbous was called Mo by his friends and a "Voice of Free Libya" by his followers. Ahead, his Nabbous's cousin and a family friend join us to talk about the fallen freedom fighter.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know where they're taking me. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you taking her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you taking her to now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you taking her?


VAUSE: This Libyan woman says Moammar Gadhafi's men raped and beat her over two days. Saturday, she burst into a journalists' hotel to voice her outrage only to be forced into a government car.

Today the Libyan government says she's being released. Her ordeal, if true, reveals the painful cost that Libyans are paying for freedom from Gadhafi.

LEMON: Some Libyans have paid the ultimate price like Mohammed Nabbous, a 27-year-old citizen journalist streamed videos like this, the government's bloody crackdown. He outmaneuvered Gadhafi's attempts to block all images.

And on March 19th, his pregnant wife had told his followers online that Nabbous had died for the cause.


MOHAMMED NABBOUS'S WIDOW: Please keep the channel going. Please keep videos, post videos, and just move every -- every authority you have to do something against this. They are still bombing. They are still shooting and more people are going to die. Don't let what Mo started go for nothing, people. (END AUDIO CLIP)

VAUSE: Joining us now is Nabbous's cousin Ahmed Nabbous; and also a family friend, Ali Gebril.

Let's start with you Ali. Do you think that -- Ahmed -- Nabbous's death, do you think that has actually rallied the cause around him or in Libya? Do people know of his death and are people now posting videos in his place?

ALI GEBRIL, FRIEND OF MOHAMMED NABBOUS: Yes. Definitely. The death of Mohammed Nabbous symbolized the movement of this youth of Libya. He has a famous saying. People remember the saying now. He said, "I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid to lose the battle."

So the new generation of Libya, the people of Libya in general, out of their fear of losing the battle against this tyrant they are galvanizing behind Mohammed Nabbous's cause.

LEMON: You became emotional when you heard his wife. When we played that -- when we were playing that I watched your face. What's going through your head?

GEBRIL: Mohammed Nabbous represents the future. And actually his unborn child represents the future and this young guy, courageous, intelligent, the one with a degree in mathematics and computing paid the ultimate sacrifice.

VAUSE: Ok. We want to play a clip now of Mo's last report. It's audio-only so let's listen to this.


NABBOUS: I can't see everything from the side. I can hear the shooting. (INAUDIBLE)


VAUSE: So Ahmed, I would like to ask you, obviously that's very difficult to listen to, but do we know what actually happened? Do we know the snipers specifically targeted Mo?

AHMED NABBOUS, COUSIN OF MOHAMMED NABBOUS: Absolutely. This is the only way this regime is talking to the Libyan people. If you listen to the (INAUDIBLE), Mohammed Nabbous said, he really put his friends' life before his life. And he was telling them to be careful and back off and stay down. And he wasn't paying attention to his own safety.

And this is how Mohammed's life is about. It's about giving to the Libyan cause and getting rid of Gadhafi.

One of the conversation we had with him, he said, I want my baby to have no dictatorship anymore. I want her -- or want him to live in peace. No Gadhafi anymore. He said, we don't want Gadhafi anymore. And I hope his wish is going to come true. His motto has always been "a candle will never lose anything from lighting another candle". So his -- his life is not going to be wasted for nothing. We will going to make sure this Gadhafi will be out of Libya pretty soon, I hope.

LEMON: And Ahmed on a personal note, how's his wife? How's your family doing when you speak to them? What are they saying? How are they holding up?

A. NABBOUS: Well, I spoke to some -- as you know, there is no phone connections to Benghazi. Gadhafi made sure there is no connection to Internet and phones. But we have a way of connecting to people inside Benghazi. Of course, they feel terrified.

I mean, Libyan, I mean, Benghazi residents came within minutes of being wiped out. One of the thugs of Gadhafi who was arrested in Benghazi, he said the orders came from Seif al-Islam, Gadhafi's son to kill anybody who's 10 to 40 years old; shoot to kill, no hostages, no prisoners. I mean, we were saved in the right time.

So I want to thank everybody like the U.S. government and Western Allies who came to the rescue of the Libyan people. Right now, almost eight days after they start -- they started the bombing of the military installation of Gadhafi, if we did not do it, we'd have had at least 50,000 -- 80,000 -- 100,000 people murdered by Gadhafi's regime by now.


LEMON: Ahmed.


LEMON: Yes. Thanks.

VAUSE: It is very difficult story to tell.

LEMON: Thank you Ali, thank very much.

GEBRIL: Thank you Don.

LEMON: We appreciate it.

VAUSE: Thanks for coming in.

LEMON: You know, it's been six weeks since the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and look at what's changed and what hasn't. That's coming up next.


LEMON: A scene from Tahrir Square, Egypt; chaos among the protesters. You would think this was sometime before February 11th when then President Hosni Mubarak announced he was leaving.

VAUSE: But what you're seeing happened March 9, it's a sign that the new Egypt continues to be plagued by all problems. More from CNN's Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A young Egyptian singing a rebel song. In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt's revolution, Remy Essam raised his voice in protest during 18 historic days and nights which brought down a despot and left many Egyptians full of hope.

REMY ESSAM, MUSICIAN: As you are now can -- can't sing anything we want because I would be afraid.

WATSON: But look what happened to Essam barely a month later: beaten, battered and scarred after Egyptian soldiers detained him.

ESSAM (through translator): The tortured took four hours. They removed my clothes, they used sticks, metal rods, wires ropes, hoses, whips, there was also electrocution. There was an officer who would purposely jump in there air and land on my face with his legs.

WATSON: Essam was one of scores of male protesters detained during this crackdown by security forces in Tahrir Square March 9th. Troops also arrested at least 17 women who were kept for days at a military detainment center.

Amnesty International says these quote, "Women protesters were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip-searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to virginity tests".

One of these women was this 20-year-old hairdresser named Salwa Hosseini.

SALWA HOSSEINI, VICTIM (through translator): They made us sign statements declaring whether or not we are virgins.

WATSON: She says she submitted to the test under threats of electrocution.

HOSSEINI: During the test, no one was standing except for a woman and a male doctor. Six soldiers were standing behind us and watching the backside of the bed. I think they were there to be witnesses.

WATSON (on camera): A spokesman to the Egyptian military tells CNN some of the 17 women who were detained on March 9th received one-year suspended jail sentences but he denied any allegations of torture or virginity tests.

He also told us this: the ruling Egyptian military council is preparing to approve a new law that would make the kind of protests we saw here in Tahrir Square a criminal offense, punishable by jail time or huge fines.

Did you ever think you would be seeing this type of behavior --


WATSON: -- on February 12th after --


WATSON: -- Hosni Mubarak left?

OMRAN: I'm -- I'm shocked. I'm shocked because I thought that you know, that kind of treatment has went -- went down with the -- with the regime.

WATSON (voice-over): Military police detained and interrogated human rights lawyer Ragia Omran for hours after she tried to monitor a polling station during last weekend's referendum on constitutional reform.

Omran was among many concerned citizens at this recent civil society debate on board a boat in the Nile River.

"What happened to the revolution we began in Tahrir Square," Omran asks the audience? "What happened to the revolution we created?"


VAUSE: Ivan Watson joins us now live from Cairo. Ivan, do you know who's ordering these arrests and why?

WATSON: Well, that's not entirely clear but it does seem that this appears to be a pattern, John. You know, just this Friday morning, I was talking to two men who were attending a small protest about a block from where I'm standing right now outside of the state TV headquarters and they describe being dragged in by army soldiers and ordered by the officer to be beaten. They were beaten repeatedly. They showed me the bruises on their hands, the cuts on their head, on their face, just a few hours after this happened. And they said, while they were being beaten, they were also electrocuted repeatedly in their groins by these army soldiers.

The army is carrying out most of the security services on the streets right now in the place of the police which haven't entirely returned to their jobs. So this is the army and the ruling military council that is the real authority here in Egypt right now that seems to be enforcing this type of security including this very disturbing and somewhat sinister pattern of torture and abuse.

VAUSE: Ok, Ivan Watson for us live with an update on the situation in Cairo. Of course, so much has changed there and some people say not much has changed at all since Mubarak left.

LEMON: Yes and as we say every moment something happens. You know we get -- we get alerts coming across about --


VAUSE: Yes. LEMON: -- the entire region. So you never know what's going to happen. So you have to stay tuned, you have to stay tuned to follow it.

VAUSE: Absolutely.

Thanks for joining us here at CNN for this special report, UPRISINGS: REGION IN REVOLT. I'm John Vause.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarter in Atlanta. The news continues right now on CNN.