tv CNN Newsroom CNN August 23, 2011 8:00am-10:00am PDT
explosions, but nato will not confirm if indeed they have bombed moammar gadhafi's compound. we have sara sidner, and our live pictures are back up. still smoke coming from the compound there. our sara sidner is in tripoli, as well as arwa damon, they have been calling in when they can. arwa damon right near the airport where fighting continues, and matthew chance hunkered down at the rixos hotel, concerned about possibly snipers. we don't always have a chance to get him moment by moment. sue ann, are you ready to take it over? >> thank you, kyra. we want to get you up to speed for tuesday, august 23rd. we are seeing black smoke and
outright confusion. these are live pictures near moammar gadhafi's compound. there have been heavy battles raging around this building. carloads of people have been streaming out of the libyan capital. we want to bring in retired general james "spider" marks. if you could, tell us about what you are watching, what you are seeing. what do you make of the pictures? with the low level flying that is taking place, bombing gadhafi's compound? >> suzanne, what you see is obviously a representation of chaos and confusion on the ground. the fact that civilians are fleeing, coming out of tripoli should not be surprising. the rebels are about to force gadhafi's complete departure in some way. that may take hours, that may take days. we still could be a week or so away. but that type of confusion, of
what happens next gets folks very, very nervous. they've got the opportunity now to get out of town, and you're going to see them get out of town and let this thing settle out. i think you'll see a reverse after there's been some conclusion. it's not necessarily going to be gadhafi's head on a pike. could be, but i don't expect that. what you don't hear is updates on a routine basis, at least we're not hearing those, from nato. what that tells you is they are hunkered down, focused in on the final tasks, very precision strikes, in support of the rebels, very, very aggressive final steps. there's got to be a conclusion at this point.
would they have been able to identify very specifically where goif goif is holed up? >> i'm not sure they know specifically. i'm sure they have a target list with very specific locations of where he could be. there's been been an aggressive surveillance campaign, with national systems on the ground, human intelligence, sources that are a part of the rebel forces, as they get closer and closer to the various targets where gadhafi could be, and zeroing in on them. i think the activity would tell you that it's pretty likely that's where he is right now, and that's why this effort is taking place. >> when you look at these pictures, how long do you think this kind of battle can ensue, do you think it would be wrapped
up fairly quickly? we don't have a lot more information about it except for knowing that nato has done some low-level flying. we don't know exactly what is taking place from our vantage point. do we have a sense they will play out for hours or days? or does it look lie the end of the regime? >> history can tell us a lot. even the most disciplined forces, when they get into this type of combat, very urban, close, compartmentalized combat, it's exceptional draining. you're engaged at every moment, because you are limited sense of what you can pick up. your primary certain is for your buddy, the guy on your left or right. that's extremely draining. it is under any circumstances, but in this type of environment, extremely draining.
simply because i think it will dissipate. sara, can you give us a sense of this compound that looks like black smoke is emerging from it, that perhaps it has been the tart of recent strikes? >> we are very, very close close to the gadhafi compound. >> i'm sorry, sara, i'm not sure i have you. have we lost this connection?
i want to go back to general spider marks. we were trying to reach sara, who is close to that compound. you're saying you think this could play out within days? what needs to happen? >> as we've stated before, somebody needs to shoot him in the face. i don't know that there's an alternative. no nation has said we'll expect that i am. i'm confident if the rebels took him, he would end up being shot in the face. or somebody will not find him until some building has collapsed on him. i'm not trying to be flip here, suzanne, but i think he has
essentially established one alternative, he's going to die. we understand there's a hotel where a lot of journalists have been staying, and it's possible he could be in one of the tunnels underneath the hotel. >> i don't know that certainly, but it wouldn't be surprising at all. he has to be someplace where he knows he's protected. that is certainly the case. if that's the case, then they have protected that thing over the course of years. they have made that thing a bunker within a bunker, so you know he's in some compound underground being protected. that makes the most sense. that's probably why that's where all the activity is right now.
>> i understand we have sara sidner on the phone in tripoli. can you hear me? >> yes, i can hear you now. >> tell us where you are in relation to this compound. >> we are very close from where you're seeing all the smoke. we had to just take cover. we are also having -- we can actually hear the bullets flying past our heads coming into our area. large blasts are going on. tripoli is definitely not safe, especially in this area near the compound. we see rebels going back and forth. there are snipers in the area. people are standing up against buildings, looking around corners. there are a few residents in the area. right now i am leans toward a
makeshift hut that they have placed in this neighborhood. this neighborhood is known to be partly a pro-gadhafi neighborhood, if you can call it that. people are ducking. people are tense here, but the situation is still an extreme one in the capital of tripoli. >> sara, please be careful. if you need to go, let us know. from what you can tell, who actually has the weapons in their hands? does it looks like an even match? what is taking place? >> reporter: we know they are being -- right now i see men who have what happens to be shrapnel wounds, because we're getting familiar with what those wounds look like.
this fight is on. this neighborhood is where the center of the fight is. we've hearing all the blast and gunfire. we are very concerned also about the potential of snipe ers i saa 7-year-old boy with a gun that's bigger than he is, and he says he's in charges of the house, because his father is fighting. >> can you see these snipers? >> reporter: no -- yes, we are looking at all the buildings. we do not see any snipers on the buildings ourselves, but the general rule is if you can see -- and we don't want to be in that situation, we're trying to stand behind buildings. right now we're seeing -- he's holding on his shoulder, so we're seeing all sorts of different kinds of weapons. way more weapons we saw in the
last couple days this is difficultly an urban fight. >> sara, you just told us there was a 7-year-old boy who you got to know you just passed who got to -- let's just take a listen. what are we listening to, sara? >> you are hearing loud blasts. again that's coming from around the -- where the gadhafi forces are expected to be. like i told you, we're not just hear outgood going, we are definitely hearing incoming -- hold on. that was closer to us. we're going to have to make an assessment here safetywise, to whether we want to stay in the area or get out.
we do see a lot of fighters coming and roaming around the streets. this is a very tight-knit neighborhood. these are not paved streets, so you feel like you're in a situation where you can't tell exactly what you're dealing with until you turn a corner. not a great situation to be in for anyone. >> sara, against, if you need to go, leave, escape, please do so. your safety is of the ultimate 340s important here. there's nothing more important than that. you know just how close this gunfire is. can you give us a sense -- are you pulling back at this time? are you staying put? >> i'm standing up against a
i am assuming these are libyan civilians who have been caught in the crossfire that these are not soldiers, these are not people who are part of this fight. is that right? >> these are definitely soldiers. i can see even that i guns are lying up again -- some of them are nurses it appears these are people in the fight that have come to this area. this is a known clinic on the corner. so if there are any civilian injuries, i'm not seeing them just yet, but i cannot get into
this building that's here. >> thank you, sara. we want to welcome our international viewers. sara sidner on the ground there, as we see the smoke billows from outside, perhaps inside the compound, and sara side anywhere very close very close -- if you would, we have the international audience joining us. again describe where you are, what you're seeing and what you're hearing. >> reporter: we are in the neighborhood of bab al aziziya. the fighting is very intense. what we're seeing right now, we're on dirt streets --
>> can you hear us, sara? i want to go to general spider marks, if we can. you've been listens to sara as well. it looks like a very tense and dangerous situation at this time, as someone who has a very intense understanding of the military, in your experience, what is taking place? >> suzanne, what you are seeing is first of all, sara is being extremely courageous, and your cautions to her are great. my recommendation is she needs to settle someplace where she can communicate with you guys and give her a good sense, let this thing unplay in front of her, and your cautions are absolutely spot on. so god bless her. i hope she's going to be okay. it's complete kayous, what you see. the forces are probably in blue jeans just like the rebels are
in blue jeans. males and females. this fight is 360 degrees all dimensions. it's extremely chaotic. sara's comment is absolutely against spot on. if you can see a sniper, he or she can see you, but you don't know you're not looking at one as you come around the corner. your sense of protection is about as far as you can reach your hand in front of you. people are going to kill their buddies. people are going to wound each other who are on the same side, because you can't tell friend from foe. this is tough fighting going on. also if you have air support taking place, it's absolutely critical that the air/ground capabilities allow that type of precision delivery, so you can minimize as greatly as possible
the collateral damage, but a fight like this is really defined by collateral damage. it's all urbanized. everyone who is in that area right now is in a kill zone. >> general, one thing that struck we some with sara's story, she passed a 7-year-old boy who they got to know, meet and talk to, who was protecting his hypo, carrying a gun bigger than himself. what does that indicate in terms of where we are in this war, this civil war? >> more importantly, i have to tell you, suzanne, what that tells you had, is here's a 7-year-old young man, he has known nothing but this type of warfare and this type of brutality. what type of individual is he going to be as you move forward? that's the type of concern that we have. arwa, tell us where you are in
relation to the compound, whether or not you can see any of this that we are actually watching right now. >> reporter: suzanne we're about 15 miles to the south of the compound. the rebels managed to take over this location yesterday at around midday. ever since then there's been a fairly intense attempt by gadhafi forces to gain it back. just a short while ago there was a two-pronged assault on the international airport complex, a smaller one from the south, a more intense effort concentrated from the east, gadhafi forces firing a number of artillery rounds into the airport complex, the rebels then responding, using their anti-aircraft machine guns mounted on the back of pickup trucks, also launching a barrage of missiles. they were telling you that goif goif forces really want to try to win back this strategic location.
it is a straight shot from here to the gadhafi compound. on that main highway leading toward the capital you have two military installations, once is a major refueling point. the other is a few storage facility. two areas that gadhafi forces are not going to want to see fall back into rebel hands. at this particular location, rebel fighters are showing us various areas where gadhafi forces had dug in, missiles, other kinds of weapons, hiding them underground, really preparing themselves for this fight. >> hang with us, if you will. thank you. i want to go to matthew chance you've been at the epicenter, having discovered one of his sons yesterday, who was there at
the hotel. what is happening? what is the update in terms of who is in charge, whether or not gadhafi is still there, and whether or not you're even able to get out of that hotel? >> reporter: it's a very, very difficult situation for us here at the rixos hotel we're here in the middle of that battle, but we're behind the lines of the gadhafi loyalists, as it were. they control this area. indeed there are ferocious gun fights on the perimeter of the hotel towards the gadhafi compound as well. we're hearing huge explosions. i know we have reporters there telling us a bit more details, but from our perspective in here, it's been a nightmare actually. we've been taking incoming article tillry shells, snipers targeting the hotel.
the windows have been smashed by snipers, bullets and stray bullets as well. in the lobby of the hotel we still have gadhafi loyalists armed with rifles. many of the journalists have taken upon themselves to wear bo body arm or of course with all the fighting outside, no one is allowing us to get outside and to leave this place, which is obviously at the center of these clashes now between the opposition forces and what's left of the forces of colonel gadhafi. what he said took a different tone, characteric of the gadhafis, saying this was a trick that lured rebels into
tripoli, and now they have broken their back. so -- they've been very defiant, saying they control much of tripoli. contrary to what the rebels are saying. -- [ garbled audio ] >> sure. >> except to say in this part of tripoli -- there is -- more in the basement, trying to get some perspective on this hotel still firmly in the grip of gadhafi forces. >> matthew wow putting you in danger or revealing any information, can you describe the kind of situation, the conditions you're in now inside this hotel?
we lost matthew chance. i want to recap very quickly. he's inside the hotel not far from moammar gadhafi's compound, which you can see up in smoke. there's fierce battles. our sara siden is on the ground near a clinic very close to the compound as well. it's a chaotic and uncertain scene. we're going to bring more and follow this story as it develops. we'll take a quick break first. we'll be right back. just one phillips' colon health probiotic cap a day helps defends against occasional constipation, diarrhea,
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you're looking at live pictures here out of tripoli. this is right outside the compound. moammar gadhafi's compound, where you can see the black smoke that is billows there. this comes after some fierce fighting. we have reporters on the ground. sara sidner, we also have matthew chance in a hotel nearby, and they have been reporting the fierce battle that is taking place as rebels are
trying to overtake the capital there of tripoli. and moammar gadhafi still his whereabouts are unknown as well as many of his family, his sons in the area, but we do know that we've been hearing loud explosions there in the capital city, that it is a very tense situation on the ground. there are people fleeing for their lives. in a clinic nearby, or sara sidner is reporting multiple injuries, shrapnel and gunshot wounds. people trying to protect that you are homes, a 7 years old boyd with a weapon larger than himself standing barred over a home, with the chaos on the street. i want to go to general james "spider" marks. when you hear the stories of what is taking place on the ground, just how difficult is
this situation? how tense is this situation in trying to root out moammar gadhafi. >> it's extremely tough. none of this is a surprise. what needs to be -- we need to temper this e. at least the rebels need to, because the next step that occurs needs to be an embrace and transition that welcomes all parties into what this new libya will look like. following a fight like this, it is exceptionally hard to be magnanimous and benevolent to those you were trying to kill just minutes before. i don't know that the rebels are up to it or not, but that's what the international community neends to focus in on, and that's in the hands of nato, to ensure we don't have an immediate cathartic blood xwath that follows this tough fight. >> what can nato do at this
point to end this fight? to either influence it one way or the other? >> i don't think nato wants to be involved in ending it, because their fingerprint will be all over it and own it. frankly they own it to a large degree, anyway, and i think the neighbors nation are very much stakeholders in what occurs next, but there fighting will play itself out. it's going to be the rebels rolling over gadhafi forces, and it may take hours, maybe a couple more days to get that accomplished, but at that point, suzanne, there has to be some type of a force that is available immediately to put boots on the ground to ensure you don't have a bloodbath. despite the protestations to the
opposite there will be a gentle transition. general, stay with us, if you will. i want to bring in our sara sidner, who i understand is back with us. can you hear me? this is suzanne. >> i can hear you. we are in a neighborhood very close to bab al aziziya. i'm going to move on you. now, the blasts are coming from the right of the camera. there's a clinic down this road, a gray building. there are rebel fighters standing around the building, because there were people inside that building that are injured. people coming back from this
fire fight with shrapnel wounds, bullet wounds. we have confirmed there are 8 civilians who have been hit. we are hearing there was a woman who came out of her home and was hit by sniper fire, according to a nurse inside that clinic. the situation we're in right northeasterly the bab al aziziya, this neighborhood's name is gergi, and a very intense fight today. >> sara, again we appreciate your courageous reporting, if you need to move feel free to do so. we've seen people walking behind you. are those civilians just in the neighborhood? are they taking covered? trying to protect their homes?
ty understand that we have just lost the signal to sara sidner. she's in a neighborhood very close to a clinic, very close to what you're seeing there. the black smoke billows from that compound. sara sidner just describing what the -- the conversations she was having with people there in that clinic, saying that there had been some civilians who superb injured in this fierce battle that's taking place on the ground between gadhafi's loyalists, and also the rebels there who have claimed at least that they have taken over 85% of the nation's capital. this is urban warfare that's continuing in the heart of libya. i want to bring back general spider marks. if you're still with us, to describe -- okay. i understand -- i'm just being told now that we no longer have the general here, but i do want to bring in my college michael holmes from cnn international.
thank you for helping us to try to sort this out. clearly this is a developing story. it's changing minute by minute with folks on the ground. we also have analysts weighing in. i believe we have william cohen, former defense secretary. are you with us? >> i am. >> when you see this unfold, what are you watching? what are we seeing? >> you're seeing urban warfare and the face of t. and it's ugly. it means there are innocent people who are being targeted and who will be injured and perhaps even killed. it's one of the reasons why it's so difficult for the nato countries to become more heavily engaged at this point because of what they call the collateral damage, that means killing innocent people. trying to consolidate and they gather together in one spot, well, that becomes easier for nato to then target them. so warfare on the streets will
be block by block and carried by the rebel forces on the ground with some intelligence assistance and perhaps some drones overhead, that once we get information to whether forces are gathering, they can be targeted. >> do you have a sense of what our role is, the american role, even nato's role. are there folks calls in, giving intelligence reports about possible sfm targets? >> i think that's to be expected, the united states has taken a support ink role, but that's critical in terms of providing the overhead intelligence and other communications information that can help the rebel forces know exactly where they have to go. so the role that the united states plays is crucial. >> stay with us, if you will. i want to reset if we can. michael home also, my colleague from cnn international, as well
taking a look at the story as it unfolds. as our correspondents have described, this is an extremely tense situation, this is urban warfare, the possible collapse of the gadhafi regime. you have been there, you just came back, does this surprise you? >> yeah, i've spent the last couple weeks with the western rebels, the ones who made the big push to the coast and into tripoli. they were very organized. more organized than they looked on some of the television screens. the difficulty with urban warfather, is that it favors the defender, because it's home turf. that's in theory. the difference with these guys, and the ones i spent time with, some of them were from the western mountains, most of them were, but you had rebels from different towns. >> i'm just getting worse here, according to afp and reuters, they are in and out reporting that the rebels have captured the gadhafi compound. that's coming from afp reuters.
>> that's very significant if true. >> what would that mean if they were finally actually to get gadhafi's compound in their control? >> it's very significant in a symbolic way unless he's there. if he's there, this all falls apart on a significant level. there will be pockets of resistance. we saw this in baghdad. i went up with the marines and got there the day the statue came down. the next few days were chaotic. we're likely to see that here, too. there will be the diehard loyalists in sniper positions around the city, protecting their own interests, but the compound itself, if gadhafi is inside that, and no one knows, then it takes away the last sort of platform. >> i also want to bring up the fact that we're getting this from the rebels, but we also got from the rebels that they had captured three of moammar gadhafi's sons recently, and we
saw two emerge late yesterday. do we believe what they say here? you know these guys. >> i like the term fluid situations. i covered two of the battle with it is western rebels. they may not want to deliberately mislead you, bud you're getting different -- it's not going to always be accurate. when the rebels talked to me, they never led us astrayed once. it proved to be true. the safe capture story did them no good at all in terms of credibility. they didn't have him, obviously.
>> i'm hear we have sara sidner joining us. i understand you have some news? >> reporter: okay. we have an update. the rebels have made it into the compound. they've telling us they've been able to take a truck, they have it, it's sitting in front of us, they are still fighting. they are telling us they're still fighting. they have now broken into that compound, they say, they have been able to take some of the weapons -- bab al aziziya now invaded by the rebels. that's the latest from a neighborhood next for it. the big update is they are saying they've got into a big compound. >> it's a big compound, isn't it, sara? they can't walk in and say
they've got it immediately? >> reporter: yes. they say they are still fighting. it's not that they have completely taken over the compound, but they have gotten in, and there's still fighting going on right now. these rebels are saying that -- some of the trucks that they say they have secured from gadhafi forces, and -- in this neighborhood right now. wloof they've been able to secure, they say no, we are still fighting, and we can hear blasts going on. >> sara, can you describe what you are seeing around you? >> yes, we so a good number of rebel fighters. they are about to hold an
impromptu press conference with us and any media inned area. they are gathering in celebration. they say they have broken into the compound, that gadhafi is nearly finished in their words, and that they have some of the equipment that belonged to gadhafi forces. in this neighborhood there is a clinic that is there, a clinic treating people who have been wounded. we have seen some of the wounded inside. we know there's been hurt at least one or two civilians have been injured. now we're seeing an interesting picture. we are seeing fighters yelling god is great, god is great. as they come out of the compound, so it does give us more confirmation while there's still a battle going on, that they feel like they have at least broken inside and want to give everybody that news. >> sara, you are seeing some of
the rebels that have been inside the compound who say they have broken? and now are yelling in victory? >> reporter: they are yelling "god is great" yes, a bit of a victory chant. it does not mean they have completely cleared the compound. we can still hear blasts coming from the compound. i asked specifically, did you see anyone inside? were you able to speak to anyone? he says, no, right now we are still inside trying to secure the area. but celebrations here, because bab al aziziya has been broken in. they have been able to storm that building. >> the blast you are hearing, can you tell if those are blasts that are coming from the -- is this an offensive that the rebels are engaged in, the blasts coming from the rebels?
hold on a second. i'm going to try to move closer and see what we can see. yes, a major strategic move, because if they've gone into that compound, now they're going to try to clear it. some people are crying in happiness. >> sara, i assume there is still fighting going on elsewhere around the city, the remaining pockets of the resistance. what are you hearing from the rebels you are with about the
capability of gadhafi forces elsewhere? >> reporter: we can't tell if there are -- hold on. hold on. we cannot tell if there are gadhafi forces elsewhere, because where we are, there's so much action and so much activity -- hold on. hold on. hold on. there's so much action and so much activity in this neighborhood we are not? a position to tell whether or not there is fighting in other parts of the city. we do know earlier on there was fighting in other parts of the city. they rebels that we were talking to were inside the compound, and that is where the main fire fight has been going all day long. that is their main focus, to get into gadhafi's compound. for them it would be a major visibility torrie. just one second. we're going to go over and talk to someone. so they have a file -- it says file number three.
it's got -- hold on. it has saif's name, and these are -- wait. these are -- hold on one second. i'm going to have my producer speak to them. excuse me, sir, where did you get these from? where did you get these files from? they're telling you the files are from bab al aziziya. they're inside the building where did you get these files? >> translator: inside an office. >> reporter: they're saying this is prove they got into one of the offices. names and file numbers. it looks like i'm looking at some receipts here. inside there are officials stamps we're seeing from the
gadhafi regime we're going to send you a picture short lid of the files and these are medical files i'm trying to do two things at once, because they're going to taking these away. this is a very exciting moment for the rebels. they feel like they are showing us proof and coming to the end of this massive fire fight with the gadhafi regime. this is gadhafi's wife's name, amira. -- sorry. not gadhafi's wife. can you still hear me? >> yes, yes, sara. you're running the show. keep telling us what you're
seeing and hearing from these rebels. just reminding viewer that sara has been reporting that the rebels are staying they're inside the compound. i don't know if we can bring up that animation. this is not a small compound, this is a large compound. it will be difficult to take, there are multiple buildings in there, and a lot of open ground, so how well entrenchntrenched a have their backs against the wall. i would imagine there's no reason to give up, they've got nowhere to go, sara. >> reporter: i'm not sure if you guys can hear me. >> we hear you, sara. go ahead. >> reporter: if you can, this neighborhood has gone wild. rebels are scream iing ala akba.
this one is -- the young man who saw gadhafi's son who came to the the son of gadhafi, they say they captured and showed up last night and spoke with with our matthew chance in the hotel where the international journalists, but now they have the finals saying we are going room by room, trying to clear it out. they are pulling ought these files from different rooms. we are literally looking at medical files of saif al islam, gadhafi's son, so this is pretty strong proof that they have gotten into the compound and making their ways in. and we want to take a listen to the environment around you, the kinds of things you are hearing in this crowd. >> reporter: sure.
i'm going to put the phone to the area where they're showing these files. >> this is saif al islam's medical files. >> reporter: you're hearing them all discussing with us in english that -- just saying the same things over and over again, we have it, we have it, we're winning this fight, god is great, victory is here. so the neighborhood has come down, up and down. they've obviously gotten into an office there with all of the files, and you're hearing celebrations, but now the rebels have moved into a more serious mode, as they're going down the street, trying to tell everyone that we are winning this fight. hold on. i'm going to let you listen. they are singing now, where we are.
hold on. >> sara, are you still with us? can you hear us? >> you heard there still in the background, though, there was clearly some sounds of heavy weapon impact in the distance when she was holding the phone up, and also just at the end there you could you can never tell whether that's celebratory or not. you can hear ak-47s, you can hear anti-aircraft guns being fired in a sustained burst there, too. difficult to tell what's celebratory and what's offensive. >> she was describing a scene where you had rebels who had just entered gadhafi's compound, very happy about the con quest that they had actually been able to at least it looked like they were able to get into some sort of office and had medical files of some of the gadhafi family
members, and that they were going through the streets showing others what they had found, what they had seen. clearly, they are in a sense optimistic, they think they have gotten ahold of this compound. it's going to be very interesting to see whether or not that makes a difference. >> exactly. loyalists who are in there obviously feel that their backs are against the wall. it's interesting to keep pulling up this animation there and show you the size of this place. it is not small. multiple buildings, multiple buildings to clear as well. >> we will be following this developing story. we will take a quick break. we'll be right back. more on this warfare that is taking place in tripoli, libya. or creates another laptop bag or hires another employee, it's not just good for business -- it's good for the entire community. at bank of america, we know the impact that local businesses
we're following this breaking news story. this is out of tripoli, libya. this is where there has been gunfire exchanged, urban warfare, taking place on the ground there as the rebels enter the compound of moammar gadhafi. they have merged with what looks like or could be medical files according to sarah, who says there is celebration and gunfire on the streets around the compound as the rebels have been able to make their way inside. this is a fierce battle and big questions in terms of where moammar gadhafi is, whether or not his regime will survive, whether or not the rebels are
close to actually taking over. myself and michael holmes are here to sort all this out. we also have former defense secretary william cohen, who is with us. when you see this picture unfold, what are we watching? what do you make of where we are in this warfare? >> well, it's reaching its final stages, it appears to be, at least. the only caution i would have here as the rebels move into that compound, given what michael had said about the size of it, they be very careful about parts of it being booby-trapped. to celebrate at this point before they have secured all the premises i think would be -- would not be wise. i think they have to be careful as they're moving through. if this is going to be quote, the equivalent of custer's last stand, i would assume gadhafi forces would have something in store, in surprise, for the rebels. hopefully they will take great care and caution as they're moving through. ultimately, if this is the major
compound, they will be looking for tunnels you talked about earlier in the program, as to whether or not gadhafi has underground exit strategy to get out of town, so to speak. whether there are weapons stored in that compound, those tunnels under the compound. all of that will be important as they move forward today. i think ultimately, you mentioned the question whether the regime is going to survive. the regime can survive. if the regime survives and it's a defeat for the rebels, for nato and the united states, for all of those who are concerned about what gadhafi has done to his people over the years, so i think it's a foregone conclusion that he is not going to survive and that nato, under any circumstances, is going to do whatever it has to in order to support the rebels and their final goal. >> i think it's probably safe, you're right, it is over for moammar gadhafi, whether he had an exit strategy or not. one would imagine if he had one, he would have used it by now. certainly, it was a very big
surprise to a lot of people we saw saif gadhafi wandering around yesterday, too. it's also worth remembering there are other cities that are not held by the rebels. this is not over even in terms of countrywide. his hometown still has the green flag flying over it. there are other towns outside the capital that still have gadhafi forces fighting with rebels but this obviously is the focus. i imagine that apart from intelligence, and there are planes flying over tripoli, i can report that at the moment, apart from that sort of overflight and intel operations, how much is there that nato can do in terms of firing on gadhafi forces? once there in the city, they pretty much have to hold fire, don't they? >> they do. there may be some forces from the british or french or others who are actually on the ground helping to coordinate that intelligence for the rebel forces, so they may continue to
play an important role in that regard, but as far as the heavy bombing activity, that's unlikely to take place unless there is a gathering of the gadhafi forces in one concentrated area. that makes it more likely that they could be targeted. it may be that they are dispersed and that's the difficulty of urban warfare, you have to go door by door and street by street to take them. but you're right to point out that all of the country is not under control of the rebels at this point. my only argument is that it's pretty clear the international community has already come down the side of the rebels, the u.n. security council resolution has been the basis for the support of nato taking action to support the rebels. so the regime may linger on for some time but the end result is pretty clear. the handwriting is on the wall. it's not a forgery. i think his forces will be gone, how soon remains to be determined, but i think they're finished. >> i want to bring another breaking news story that we're following here to our audience.
we are going to take a look at some live pictures that are out of new york city, the courthouse there. we understand now that the judge has dismissed the charges, the charges of sexual assault against dominique strauss-kahn. you may recall he is the former head of the imf and he was accused by a hotel maid of sexual assault inside of the hotel room. there were questions about her credibility, about her story, and that was presented. the district attorney's office presenting that to the judge and the judge has accepted that argument and has now dismissed the charges against dominique strauss-kahn. are we looking, are these live pictures here? this is tape. this is tape of dominique strauss-kahn and his wife at his side as they had entered the courthouse. this was from earlier today. this has been a worldwide case,
focus has been on this very powerful man and the legal system, the charges against him here in this country. we're now looking at live pictures, i'm told, outside of the courthouse. but quite an interesting tale when you think about it, michael, because really, this has been the picture that's been portrayed of a very powerful man, someone who could have been and was to run for president of france, who had been accused of sexual assault by an immigrant, a hotel maid here in this country, and his reputation certainly was taken through the mud. >> he had a reputation before this happened. >> his reputation was questioned and he was taken in handcuffs at one point, he was held and then he was under house arrest and from the very beginning, he said that he was innocent but in this judicial system in this country, he was taken through that perp
walk. he was charged and it was the defense who claimed that diallo was telling the truth. >> he still faces that civil case, of course. >> that's right. >> i understand we have sarah back on the line. i want to tell people, too, that al-jazeera has been reporting, they have a correspondent inside that compound and that resistance has now ended. what are you hearing where you are, very close by? >> reporter: what we are hearing now is that they have gotten inside the compound, they have gone into the buildings, have gone into gadhafi's buildings, that they could even swim in the swimming pool is what we're hearing from them. that we reported just a few minutes ago. let me let you talk to a gentleman who has more information. he was showing us just moments ago, he was showing us files, there were files of saif, moammar gadhafi's son.
tell me what you saw the rebels bring out. is this fight over, even though we are still hearing blasts? >> it's all over. >> reporter: can you tell me why this day is important? what is so significant? have you found any gadhafi family members inside that compound? >> no. they haven't found anyone yet. none of the gadhafi family has been found. >> reporter: are they in full control? >> yes. they are in full control and they even burned gadhafi's historic building. >> reporter: they burned gadhafi's historic building. we are seeing smoke from that area. why is this day important to you? what does this day mean to you? >> it means i'm free. i can get back to my normal life. >> sarah, can you ask if he was in there, what was resistance like? >> reporter: do you have any idea, i know you weren't there in the fight, but are they telling you what this fight was
like? >> they haven't told me how the fight was. they said it's finished. >> reporter: everyone here saying the fight is finished. what you're hearing when you hear those blasts are celebratory blasts and gunfire. they are going through building to building now. ahmed, thank you so much for joining us. ahmed is a fourth year medical student who says his life has now changed, he is now free. his family is now free. what we're hearing in this neighborhood is that the fight is over but we are still hearing blasts. they say those are celebrations, those are not fighting -- those are not the fight between gadhafi forces. i know they have taken some of the files, they have taken some of the guns, they are bringing out guns from gadhafi forces there. they have detained some of gadhafi's forces according to the rebels who have just come out and they have also gotten some of their equipment such as cars and that sort of thing. so a major, major victory for
the rebels today. >> sarah, can you tell us who you're surrounded by there? can you give us a sense of the neighborhood? i'm assuming that those are folks who are celebrating, those are the folks who are supporting the rebels. it might be hard to tell if they are gadhafi loyalists among them. in tripoli we know was the last holdout. do you have a sense of who's there in the community? >> reporter: yes. yes. this is what we're seeing here in the community. we are seeing children so obviously there are civilians here in this community. obviously these children are the children of supporters of the rebel cause. many of the people in this neighborhood that are still here are showing their support for the rebels. they had been angry with the gadhafi regime. those behind me are people who live here in this neighborhood. there's a clinic just down the road where there are nurses who have been here during the whole firefight, scared for their lives, but they say they will
stay and take care of anyone who is injured. they have been doing that. we know civilians have been injured in this fight, that they have been coming back to this area to get some kind of treatment. they do have enough to treat the people that they have in there at this point in time. so far, some of these little kids, we saw this gentleman here standing at his door, holding a gun earlier today, trying to protect his property. the people here that are surrounding me, very happy with what's happened today. >> sarah, it's interesting, i imagine it's almost natural that a lot of those people we used to see dancing and cheering for moammar gadhafi inside green square on state television would have just sort of changed sides right now, i imagine, and some would have felt that they were pressured to support gadhafi. are you getting any sort of sense, are you being told by people that they felt they had
to look like they supported gadhafi? there are going to be those who still support him, of course. >> reporter: of course. we are seeing that today, when you saw people leaving tripoli, they got very scared. we saw lots of residents just running out of the city center today because they were hearing these blasts. they feared for their lives and they wanted to get out of the city. these folks that stayed behind, these folks have supported the rebels. these folks are happy to be on camera now. you know, i can tell you that just 24 hours ago, there were residents that did not want us to show their faces. they would cover their face as soon as we turned the camera toward them. now obviously, they are not afraid to show their faces anymore because they feel like this is proof that moammar gadhafi no longer has control of libya or tripoli, that he is a man now on the run, not a man in control of this country anymore. >> sarah, we just want to point out to viewers on the right-hand side of the screen, they're looking at pictures from al-jazeera. this is the entrance to the
compound and you can see the rebels entering. this is what we were talking about before, where there were wide open expanses, multiple buildings, the rebels pouring in in those pickup trucks with heavy weapons on the back. >> you can see some of those, hard to make out, some of those rebels who had guns in their hand, who were armed when they were going into the compound there, but it certainly looked like they had a wide space to work with and enter. it didn't look like they had resistance at that point, at least from that vantage point. >> again, when we saw that animation of the compound, you can see that open area and there's buildings that are skirting around it as well. that's what they're going to have to clear, those pickup trucks, i saw thousands of them when i was there up until last week. they are mounted with 14 millimeter anti-aircraft guns. i saw them mounted with rockets. i saw one pickup truck that had
the top of the turret of a tank on it. these sort of home-made heavy weapons that have really knocked down moammar gadhafi's army. >> you and i were talking before, you were there with the rebels just a couple weeks ago, about communications and how difficult that is, or maybe even primitive, the method of communication. but how are these rebels talking to each other, how are they receiving messages, how do we know that what we are watching here, how significant it is if it's coming from that rebel force? >> rebels who came down from the western mountains, their command and control was pretty good. the senior commanders had satellite phones, they were able to communicate with benghazi and other places. and on the ground, though, particularly the battle fought on three separate fronts, the communication was with walkie-talkies, the types you can walk into radio shack and buy. that was their main means of communication in the field.
that's how they will be communicating around the city at the moment. the other thing that's worth pointing out when we're looking at this urban warfare situation, the rebels we were with, most of them were from the western mountains. others were not. they were from coastal cities and some were from tripoli. these were people who fled out of tripoli when this began, joined up with rebel forces. they have local knowledge. this is not like a strange army going into an urban warfare situation in a strange city. a lot of these rebels are from tripoli. they know the ground as well as gadhafi's forces do. so they are helping. the other thing was there were sleeper cells inside tripoli, cells of rebels who had been there from the beginning, weapons were distributed to them, they laid low until the signal was given. when the rebels entered tripoli, these sleeper cells in various suburbs around the city came out on a signal from mosques, normally, and they joined the fight. they also of course bring that
local knowledge to bear. >> i want to bring back in secretary cohen, if you would, former secretary of defense william cohen who is with us. if moammar gadhafi is not in this compound, if he's hiding somewhere, how significant is it that the compound perhaps has been taken over? can he still survive, can this regime survive if he is hiding out somewhere else and perhaps calling the shots? >> i think psychologically it's very damaging to him. he can continue to run from place to place, but eventually, he's going to be caught. he's not going to be going gently into that good night. so i think his future is quite dim. however long it's going to take. i want to just make a comment about the observation as to the dismissal of the charges against mr. strauss-kahn, and to juxtapose that against the scene we are now seeing. i must say what a joy, what an exciting thing it was to see the smiles and the joy on the faces of the people being liberated in
the city of tripoli at this point. but the juxtaposition was quite jarring in the sense we have seen the rule of law in the united states, in new york city, being exemplified by the dismissal of charges as compared to the law of rule which has been the case for the last 40 or more years in libya. so this is going to be an important message as we move from the law of rule, dictatorial rule, to hopefully a society in which there is the rule of law and that we'll see this kind of process of reconciliation, establishment of rules of behavior for the commercial world, investment opportunities, et cetera. i think that was what struck me as you switched from new york city to tripoli, it was really quite a jarring sight. >> you're right. there's a couple interesting points there that need to be considered in the hours and days ahead. the first one is as we saw in baghdad in the days and hours
after it fell, we saw rule of law completely collapse, and i remember being at the palestine hotel and looking at a city on fire as the looting went out of control, the rule of law collapsed. that's going to be very important in the days ahead. >> i want to bring in our colleague, wolf blitzer, who is now interviewing, talking to u.s. ambassador to the united nations, susan rice. let's interrupt, if we can. >> thanks very much. i want to bring in the united states ambassador to the united nations, ambassador susan rice. she's joining us from rome now. ambassador, thanks very much. we're being seen right now on cnn and cnn international around the world. give us a sense, ambassador, as you can, based on all the information you have, where the situation in libya stands right now. >> well, i think it's quite clear that the situation remains fluid. the fighting is still going on in parts of tripoli and
elsewhere in the country. the rebels have made enormous progress over the last several days and in our judgment, the tipping point has been reached where the days of gadhafi are numbered and the regime is on its last legs. but it's still the case that there is fighting ongoing, including reports that we have all seen of the rebels having recently breached the gadhafi compound. we don't know what's going on inside precisely. but this remains still an active battle in parts of tripoli. >> is it still the u.s. government's estimate, belief, that moammar gadhafi is hiding out some place inside libya, that he has not left the country? >> wolf, obviously we are not able to confirm his location with precision, but there are many varying reports, but i think the preponderance of
reporting suggests that he's still likely inside of libya. >> you've had conversations, when i say you, i mean u.s. officials, maybe including yourself, with representatives of the transitional national council, and what have you said to them, if in fact they captured moammar gadhafi alive? >> well, we all have been in contact with leaders of the tnc. you heard the chairman yesterday say that their intent, were they to capture gadhafi, is to bring him to justice through a legal process. our view is that that is an appropriate step. our aim and i think very much the tnc's aim is for a transition to get under way swiftly that is inclusive, that is just, and that fulfills the libyan people's aspirations for a democratic future. so we will -- have been working
with them closely as they plan aspects of their transition, we will continue to do so and obviously, these are all choices that the libyan people will ultimately have to make for themselves. but they have been clear and we have been clear that gadhafi must be held accountable and must be brought to justice, as must his son saif and the intelligence chief who has always been indicted by the international criminal court. all three. >> which raises the question from the u.s. government's perspective, ambassador rice, would you prefer that these three individuals be tried inside libya or be brought to the netherlands and be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity, at the international criminal court? >> wolf, really, this is something that must be decided not by the united states or any other government, but by the people of libya and by the interim transitional government that we expect will soon be constituted.
i think there are many difficult issues of justice and accountability and reconciliation that the libyans are going to have to work through as they build an inclusive government that's responsive to the will of the people that allows democracy to evolve out of what you know is a situation where there are no state institutions. i think we need to give them an opportunity to discuss and debate that amongst themselves and decide whether to send him, if they can, to the international criminal court or to deal with them through some domestic justice process. >> as you know, the credibility of the transitional national council has been questioned. they said they had mohammed gadhafi, one of the sons of moammar gadhafi, in custody but then he escaped, then saif al islam gadhafi, they had him, then he showed up at the hotel with all the international journalists last night. do you believe what these representatives of this transitional national council are saying? because their credibility is right now sort of weak.
>> well, wolf, we have definitely found them to be credible and responsible. we have been in close contact with the leadership in benghazi but clearly in the situation as fluid as this that's evolving rapidly, there's going to be confusion, there is going to be misinformation, and those that are on the ground in tripoli may or may not be in full and timely communication with leadership outside of tripoli. so i don't find this particularly surprising, but generally speaking, we have found in all of our engagements with the tnc that their leadership is reliable, is principled and is working to do the right thing. >> how worried are you, when i say you, i again mean the united states government, about the stockpile of chemical weapons that gadhafi's military apparently still has, whether mustard gas, some of these other chemical weapons, is this a
major concern securing these storage facilities? >> it's something we have been watching from the very beginning of the conflict in libya, wolf. we continue to watch it carefully. at this stage, we have not seen immediate cause for concern, but we will keep a close eye on that throughout. >> as you know, ambassador, a lot of us here at cnn were very worried about the journalists, the 35 or so journalists at the hotel in tripoli right now, including our own matthew chan. is the u.s. government doing anything to help free these journalists? because in effect, they are being held, almost held hostage, i should say, inside that compound at that hotel. >> we're very concerned about the situation and are monitoring it closely. wolf, as you know, what we have done along with our nato allies has been precisely limited to an air campaign, and what we can
gather in terms of information from aerial assets. we'll continue to do what we can on the protection of civilians mission which is of course the purpose of nato's activities, it's the reason why nato has been involved in this from the start, and it has saved hundreds of thousands of lives at the outset of the conflict and we will do what we can from the position that we have, and from our aerial assets to try to protect those in the hotel and elsewhere. >> i want to be precise, when you say hundreds of thousands of lives. you still believe that if the united nations security council had not passed that resolution imposing a no-fly zone over libya, gadhafi's forces would have gone into benghazi and killed hundreds of thousands of people? is that what you're saying, ambassador? >> absolutely, wolf. there's no question about it. had the security council not acted, had the united states and
nato not acted, gadhafi would have been able to do and would have done what he pledged to do which is to go house to house in benghazi and kill his people like rats. that's his language. in fact, language he's continued to use over the last several days. but the fact that the security council acted, the united states led, that nato was very much engaged and we were able to within days hand off leadership of the operation to nato ensured that those that were at immediate risk, and we mean hours, 24, 48 hours from being overrun in the city of benghazi, a city of 700,000 people, were saved and time was created and space created as gadhafi's forces were halted in their tracks for the opposition to build its capacity, to protect itself and to advance the libyan people's desire for a stable democratic future free of the
dictator, moammar gadhafi. >> ambassador rice, at what point does the united states government unfreeze the $33 billion or $35 billion in libyan assets being held here in the united states? >> well, wolf, since the united states recognized the transitional national council as the interim, as an authority pending the establishment of a transitional interim government, we have been working through the legal and diplomatic hurdles to begin the process of unfreezing the assets. i'm very much involved in that, in our efforts in new york, and i can tell you that it's a complicated process and it's been somewhat time-consuming. but we're continuing to work on it and i'm confident that we're getting close to the stage where we'll be able to release from the u.s. side the first tranche of assets and more thereafter. >> and to be precise, when do you think that first portion might be released? are we talking within days? >> i hope within days, wolf,
yes. >> there's a partner on the other side that's qualified, responsible, reliable, that can take these billions of dollars and use it to help the libyan people? >> yes. in fact, we have put forward an initial tranche of assets that we anticipate unfreezing as a first stage, some of which will go directly to humanitarian organizations, some of which would go to the tnc, some of which would help meet the needs of fuel for humanitarian and civilian purposes. so it's a broad-based process. we have been very careful in the course of working through this procedure to put in place safeguards so that we can be confident and the tnc can be confident that the assets will be used for the purposes they were intended. >> one final question, ambassador, before i let you go. i know you have a lot of work to do. if president assad in damascus
is watching what's happening to moammar gadhafi in tripoli right now, what message should you learn from this? >> he should take a very clear message from what has happened in libya, which is that you cannot use force against your own people and expect your people to take it lying down. the libyan people have built this opposition from scratch. they have made enormous gains and as a consequence, we are seeing the very last hours or days of the gadhafi regime. in syria, as president obama has said, assad had a choice. he could leave a transition that was credible and peaceful or he could get out of the way. he has not led such a transition. we have been very clear that it's time for him to get out of the way. but the people of syria will chart their own course. we are applying diplomatic and economic pressure. the syrian people have been very
clear they don't want any foreign military intervention but we will clamp down as hard as we can diplomatically and economically through sanctions that we've already imposed on a national basis. we are beginning the discussion in the security council of sanctions that can be imposed on a global basis, and i think assad needs to know that he is on a dangerous and immoral course that will have significant consequences for his leadership. >> ambassador susan rice, united states ambassador to the united nations, thanks very much for joining us. >> good to be with you, wolf. thank you. >> thank you, and good luck to you. good luck to the entire region, north africa and the middle east. that's it for me. let's go back to the cnn center. suzanne? >> thank you, wolf. we will continue to follow developments from libya. we'll have more live reports from the ground with the very latest. we are back after this quick break. let me tell you about a very important phone call i made.
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a libyan american activist is joining us from washington. i understand you've been up all night. thank you for joining us without any sleep here. you've been watching things unfold here today. what is your reaction when you see how close the rebels are to capturing gadhafi's compound? >> well, you know, this has been our story for the last three, four days. we are caught between hope and worry, hope for our country and our people there, as they are actually excited themselves when i speak to them, and also worrying about their safety that these last few hours and days hopefully will pass quickly and with a minimum amount of casualties. >> give us a sense of what this means to you personally. i understand that you talked to your mother just last night, who is in tripoli, is that right? >> yes, correct. i talked to them several times over the last few days. the last call was last night. today, unfortunately, all phones
are down. it is really heart-warming to hear her hope for what's going on, but also, her hope that her son and myself, who has been away for 30 years, will come back home soon. i think her feelings are probably multiplied across the country with endless number of mothers. libyans have suffered in all forms of ways, those who were not tortured or imprisoned were forced like myself to live our lives outside. so you know, it is really a hopeful time. i never experienced it before. times standing up against gadhafi here in the united states, as few were able to do publicly, was a very lonely business, especially when we saw our own government here in the u.s. actually embracing gadhafi in the last few years, but
today, we feel vindicated, we feel hopeful. it is an opportunity that's full of risk but at least it is the first time that we have a serious opportunity to build a real country. >> you left when you were just a teenager, i believe, in the 1980s. >> yes. >> do you plan on going back to your country? >> as soon as i can. not necessarily to live, you know, i built my professional life here in washington. this is hometown for me now. but at least to go and visit on regular basis. i cannot wait to actually see my childhood home and be there and see my childhood friends. our families, as you can expect, are huge families. i have something over 70 first cousins from both sides of my family. i have friends that i grew up with when i was a child. i remember a beautiful city to grow up in.
my mother, whom i have seen a few times outside in europe, and my father and my sisters, you know, some of my nieces and nephews, i have never seen. some of my younger cousins, i have never seen. so it's an emotional time but it is extraordinary hopeful time. we are both aware of our risks and our dreams, and i think now that decision is in the hands of libyans after all, and they need to think very carefully about the future and what kind of country they want. >> thank you so much for your perspective. obviously, looking forward to a very large family reunion when that time comes for you and for all of your relatives. >> thank you. >> lot of ex-pats. when i was there with the rebels, i met so many people who had traveled from outside the country back just for this fight. i met a 17-year-old boy from
manchester who spoke better english than arabic. he was born in manchester but his family was libyan, came back, three or four hours of training on an ak-47, he was on the front line. it was extraordinary. i met american medical students, one from purdue, one from george washington university, who spoke english without an accent, with a pure american accent, back there on the front lines fighting with rebel forces. there is a huge libyan diaspora that has come back home to carry out this fight which is interesting. we still have this picture up from reuters. let's just run it for a bit and see what we can hear. we have been hearing reports there is still sporadic exchanges of gunfire inside the gadhafi compound. let's just listen in for a second. difficult to hear over the sound of prayer from the mosques
there. but there was some small arms fire there in the background. one imagines the size of this compound, there will be pockets of resistance in various buildings, in various rooms in buildings. there are gadhafi loyalists inside there who may not want to give up or may not know it's time to give up yet. i would imagine you will be hearing that for quite some time. jim clancy is standing by. jim, you have been watching this. you know the region. you have interviewed gadhafi. your thoughts as you watch this unfold? >> well, there's a lot of things to talk about. i think you look at this from different perspectives. let me give you a little bit of a different perspective. take a look here as tony maddox, the president of cnn and cnn international here, who directs the coverage. lot of concern right now about our people that are on the ground, about sarah sidner. she's in a car making her way over to that compound. people concerned, too, about
matthew chance and so many other people that are really caught up in all of this. this is the way a news organization lives during these periods of time, when we're covering stories like this one that are breaking. so that's one aspect of it. i have all along thought they were fighting here a battle over the momentum in all of this. yes, it has been in the rebels' side but after the fiasco of the alleged capture of saif al gadhafi and then had him come down on the streets about 12 hours ago and declare that we have broken the backs of the rebels, well, what we just saw here is no, they have not. how big is that victory there? hard to tell. how much resistance was there, how many fighters did they capture. some say there was very little or no resistance and they didn't capture any. but there are tunnels underneath that compound. do they lead to the hotel where the journalists are really being held, not as hostages, perhaps, at this moment, but certainly being held captive. they are not allowed to leave. it is not safe for them to do
that. we have witnessed here over the last two hours as smoke smeared the skyline in tripoli, it is urban warfare. it's a battle for the momentum of whether or not this rebel group has the capacity to overthrow moammar gadhafi. back to you. >> good on you, jim clancy down at our international desk. the suits are watching what's going on down there. yeah, there is a lot of concern for people out in the field. tony maddox gives you his cell phone number if you're out there on the front and it's always been a bit like that. it is a very nervous time for journalists and jim made a point there, it has long been rumored that there is a tunnel that runs from that compound to the hotel, and among the many rumors of where is gadhafi, a lot of people thought he was at that hotel for much of this war because that's where the journalists are, safest building in town. >> i'm hearing now, i understand
sarah sidner is inside the gadhafi compound on the phone. sarah, can you hear us? >> reporter: yes, i can hear you loud and clear. >> just tell us where you are, what you're seeing. >> reporter: i'm sorry? >> tell us where you are, what you're seeing, what you're hearing. i understand you are actually inside gadhafi's compound? >> reporter: i'm inside the compound. people say they have not found anybody, any of the gadhafi family members, in this compound. [ inaudible ] they have knocked down buildings, buildings on fire, there have been loud blasts, celebratory gunfire here. this is an important day not only for the rebels to show that they have control of this city
but psychologically it's extremely important because this represents the gadhafi regime, more than anything, it represents the gadhafi regime in the sense this is where people believe that he was holed up for many, many, many years. they have not found him or his family yet but they have certainly gotten into that compound and it's a big historic day here in the capital, tripoli, and for the rebels and the entire country. >> sarah, are people able to just walk now into this compound? is it difficult to get inside or is this now open? >> reporter: i'm literally walking inside. i'm inside the compound, walking around looking about. i'm going in a little further to try and see more. it's surrounded by a large wall that's been painted green and cream and light brown. we are walking through the area.
i'm looking at what appears to be damage right now inside of the compound. i see a lot of smoke coming from one of the buildings, people running out of the building with lots of ammunition. i see tanks. i see [ inaudible ]. some vehicles belonging to the rebels, some of the vehicles belonging to the gadhafi regime. it looks like they are taking whatever weapons and ammunition that were inside from gadhafi's forces. a major victory for the rebels today. the gadhafi regime has been weakened beyond repair. >> is it safe to say there is no longer fighting that's taking place inside the compound, that the fighting has ended? >> reporter: it is safe to say there is no more fighting that we can see from our vantage point.
we do know people have been injured. [ inaudible ] we are not hearing those huge blasts and booms that we were hearing earlier today. there is fire in other parts of the compound as well. the biggest worry today, the biggest worry is [ inaudible ]. >> to the left on the screen, we are now watching pictures from al-jazeera, also of the compound, from a different vantage point. it's pulling out. you can see kind of a wide shot. >> just before that panned, the building, you could see what looked like heavy pock marking by heavy caliber weapons as well, if they pan back to the
right, you can see also damage done. that looks like that's aerial bombing, i would speculate. that does not look like it's happened from inside the building. who knows what nato jets did before this attack. you know, it was interesting -- go ahead. >> just being there and your experience with the rebels, what do you make of what's taking place, kind of the back and forth? we've seen people walking and some of them running back and forth. give us a sense in your experience with the rebels -- >> it's a good point, actually. you do see this sort of very informal looking, if this was a military operation you would be seeing guys going from building to building hugging walls and the like, and calling each other in an organized way. these guys are not pros. let's remember this. the two battles that i covered, one of the battlefield commanders in the first battle was a school teacher. the second guy was an x-ray technician. there are former gadhafi army
soldiers involved with the rebels, of course, those who defected or went with the rebels from the start. but most of these guys are your neighbors and that's one of the key things about this uprising, it was a popular uprising by the people, and the vast majority, i talked to bulldozer drivers and school teachers and people who worked in stores who were carrying guns and carrying these weapons. when you see these guys wandering around, no, this is not a military but it has become one. these guys have become battle-hardened over -- the young guy there in front, we saw a lot of that, too. 16, 17-year-olds. i remember driving down to the front line of the battle and the pickup trucks screaming by with heavy weapons and loaded with fighters. there were fighters along the side of the road hitchhiking to the front, literally hitchhiking, trying to wave us down to catch a ride to the front. you would see groups of five or six of them and maybe three of them would have a weapon. the others were going to the
front without a weapon. that's the sort of guys you're dealing with there. >> you can see them just carrying away what looks like to be ammunition, possibly. >> it's empty, if it is, because that would be heavy. it's hard to tell what that is. it's interesting, sarah saying they captured trucks and weapons. this whole rebel advance has been supplied, if you like, and yes, france and others have got weapons in but a lot of the western rebels did not get much in the way of weaponry help either from the outside or from benghazi. so what they were doing was supplying themselves and arming themselves by capturing gadhafi weapons. time and time again, they would come back from the front with a vehicle like that that they had captured, or weaponry or ammunition, because gadhafi troops, when they fled, they left everything behind, including a lot of their front line fighters as well. the mercenaries would disappears and flee to the next town.
>> i understand al arabia is reporting the rebels are going room to room inside the compound looking for members of the gadhafi family as well as obviously picking up any kind of evidence or things that might be useful to them. this movement started and really took hold, this was out of benghazi, that's where fred pleitgen is. can you give us the reaction of rebels there to see how quickly this escalated and how quickly they were able to take over this compound? >> reporter: the reaction has been absolutely phenomenal here in benghazi. there has been salvos of celebratory gunfire going on i would say for the past 45 minutes or so. i'm not sure how much you can hear in the background. they are using some of the pretty heavy weapons it seems as well, to be firing in the air. seems like some of the weapons have been even mortars they have been firing into the air and out to sea here. this is of course a coastal town. there is a lot of jubilation
here in benghazi at this point in time. there's people who are driving through the streets, of course, waving the rebel flag and a lot of them of course firing in the air as well. we will join those celebrations in a couple of minutes and head over to the main square here of benghazi, where as you said, this uprising essentially began when the people here rose up against the gadhafi military, there was a big battle at a military base outside of benghazi where the people managed to take the military base and equip themselves for the first time with some substantial weapons. as michael said before, there were people here also who were fighting, going to the front lines without weapons at the very beginning. so this town has been through a lot in the past couple months. you can certainly see a lot of that weight seemingly falling off at this point in time. >> want to interrupt very quickly, if we can just take a moment to listen to some of the sound that is coming from the video from al-jazeera.
would hear it all the time when they had even the smallest victories. it's almost a regional, cultural thing, this celebratory gunfire. the thing that always struck me about it, it's dangerous. not only is it a waste of ammunition but bullets fired in the air come down. i remember being at the funeral of arafat and there was constant volleys of gunfire into the air and 16 people were wounded. it is something that in my 25 years of going to the region, i have never fully understood. plus in this situation it's a waste of ammunition from the beginning, too. >> i guess it really signifies what kind of moment this is for so many people in the community here. you hear it from the folks on the ground who just can't believe this is taking place. it's taken a bit longer than some of the other countries as part of the arab spring. some people thought this would have happened a long time ago. this started back in february and very much inspired by what happened in egypt and tunisia. >> exactly. the last two weeks, last two,
three weeks -- >> a real escalation here. >> -- it's been an absolute race. when those rebels came down, you had that stalemate in the east and then you had the western rebels come down from the mountains. that's when this went on a roll. they took town after town after town. they told me they were hoping to get to the coast and be on the road to tripoli by the end of ramadan. they have beaten their own estimations and done so by a long, long way. partly because of the gadhafi forces not putting up the sort of resistance that even the rebels thought they would get and of course, mainly because of nato. let's remember, the rebels would not be in tripoli today if it hadn't been for nato. every time gadhafi forces would put their heads up, metaphorically, nato would bomb them, would take out. rebels told us they were passing on coordinates, you had the overflight, you had the u.s. drones up there giving intel information and intercepting phone calls. these guys would not be doing what they're doing now if nato
hadn't softened it up. we heard ambassador rice talking about syria earlier. syria is a very different ball game. that is because there is no nato helping out the locals. >> not to forget that it really was a u.s. mission, nato mission, led by the united states, by the obama administration, but a limited mission which the president got a lot of criticism for but clearly this is the breaking point. >> that's part of the compound. i think it's like in the northwestern part of this compound. gadhafi has a library in that area. his actual residence is much further around to the right-hand side if that camera would pan almost 190 degrees to the right, you would see his residence. again, more celebratory gunfire. >> let's listen in. [ speaking in a foreign language ]
>> you see there, you don't fire an rpg in celebration. >> this looks like an ongoing battle that is taking place, as you see people who are running and firing at one another here. from the vantage point of the photographer, he certainly seems to be taking cover behind something here. >> yeah. the wandering around has ceased. there's a bit more scurrying around now. we said there could be pockets of resistance in the next hours. perhaps it was a little bit of an exchange there. >> it's odd to see people walking around back and forth, these folks rather calm, then just moments ago, we saw that man firing his weapon. that was a significant weapon. >> rpg, yeah. >> that did not look like
it looks like it's gold-plated. one must presume that's a trophy that's been lifted from one of gadhafi's buildings there. we saw those sorts of weapons in iraq, too. saddam hussein and his sons were fans of that sort of thing. yeah, what appeared to be a gold-plated ak-47 there in the hands of a rebel. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> you're watching on the ground right outside of the gadhafi compound, some celebratory gunfire. this is coming from al-jazeera
live television and also the other side from reuters, outside the gadhafi compound, overtaken by rebels now. some of them taking away souvenirs, some celebrating, some still firing their weapons. we will be following every moment of this breaking news story, potentially the end of the gadhafi regime but certainly, the capture of the compound of moammar gadhafi. we'll have much more of this after the break.
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we have been following the developing breaking news out of tripoli, libya. this is where moammar gadhafi's compound was under attack earlier today by rebel forces that entered that compound. since then, it seems to have cleared a little bit. you see the smoke clearing and you see on the left-hand side
al-jazeera television, live pictures of them going point by point, explaining what is taking place outside of the compound. michael, you and i have been watching. seems as if people are relaxed, they're comfortable, they're celebrating. still a little bit of tension in the air, however, as they begin to take weapons out of this facility and still no word on whether or not moammar gadhafi was inside the compound or where he is at this point. >> you've got to wonder that he would have stayed there once the rebels got in, and he is rumored to have tunnels out of that compound, even if he was in it to begin with. once the rebels were in the city, you would think that was going to be a primary target all along and he would have been a bit silly to stay there. we were saying earlier there's long been a rumor there's a tunnel there to the hotel. as you say, sarah sidner has also been inside that compound, reported the rebels are in control. we saw that just before the break, a little burst of gunfire
that elicited a slightly different reaction to those inside the compound, a bit more scurrying around. we saw a gentleman firing an rpg at that domed building, which is to the left of this shot now, and that is an area where gadhafi has a library. it's a fair distance, on the other side of the compound from his actual residence. but firing an rpg in celebration is an odd thing to do unless he was just doing a little bit of post-battle damage, or was he firing at something. we have been speculating of course, there will be pockets of resistance inside this compound. it is a big place with multiple buildings. one imagines there will be some exchanges of fire going forward. as you say, some bizarre scenes. people leaving with ammunition, one guy leaving apparently with a gold-plated ak-47 that presumably he souvenired from one of those buildings. so yeah, there's still a bit of tension there. as we were also saying before the break, this isn't the marines or, you know, this is
still that ragtag army. you've got basically guys who are lawyers or shopkeepers before this all began now running around doing battle. >> you mentioned the hotel where matthew chance has been for days now, as many other journalists have gathered there under the watchful eye of gadhafi loyalists, really trapped inside of that hotel, in some ways being held by some of those armed men. it is still unclear, we know that matthew chance had a chance to see one of gadhafi's sons, saif al islam, yesterday who had reportedly been captured by the rebels, very much free, alive, and running around with weapons and supporters. it's still very unclear, it's uncertain right now where the gadhafi family is, what state they're in, whether or not they actually control anything inside
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