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Violence Rocks Libya; Will U.S. Government Shut Down?

Aired February 21, 2011 - 18:00   ET


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a ruling by the Supreme Court could have implications far beyond other crimes, like gun ownership, health care, taxation, and education standards -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Mary Snow, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's fresh violence raging right now in Libya. Here are the latest developments as we have learned them, the regime of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi hitting back hard at protesters right now. A U.S. official says Libya has used what they call aviation assets to attack protesters outside the capital of Tripoli. That means helicopters and planes.

An opposition group says helicopter gunships specifically have fired into crowds there. The regime has apparently already lost control of the city of Benghazi. That's the second largest city in Libya, where the revolt began last week amid heavy casualties. Pictures from Libya are hard to come by, but here is some video we have just received taken at the peak of Friday's protests in Benghazi. Look at that.

And in a chilling speech, the son of the Libyan leader is warning of further slaughter -- slaughter. Listen to this.


SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI, SON OF MOAMMAR GADHAFI (through translator): We're not Egypt. We're not Tunisia. We will have weapons. Everyone has access to weapons. Instead of crying over 84 killed people, we will be crying over thousands. Blood will flow, rivers of blood, in all the cities of Libya.


BLITZER: And in a stunning twist it, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations has accused Gadhafi of genocide -- genocide, his word. He's called on him to stop killing the Libyan people and to leave the country right away. Libya's government is keeping a tight lid on all communications. It has not responded to our repeated requests from CNN for access to the country.

CNN's Ivan Watson is monitoring developments next door in Cairo. He's joining us now.

Ivan, helicopter gunships firing into crowds. What else do we know?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can't independently confirm that, but we have gotten accounts like that from opposition Libyan activists, Wolf, and then this U.S. official telling CNN that aviation assets, not specifying whether they're fixed-wing planes or helicopter gunships, were opening fire -- were being used as well.

It's interesting that Libyan state TV has pointed out a statement from Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, one of the sons of Moammar Gadhafi, denying that demonstrators were attacked with airstrikes, saying that ammunition depots were targeted outside of city centers.

We do know this, though. According to the Maltese government, and we have seen pictures of it, two Libyan air force fighter planes on Monday afternoon landed in Malta, an island nation less than 250 miles off the coast of Libya. And the fighter pilots say that they have defected after refusing orders, according to a government source in Malta, after refusing orders to open fire on demonstrators.

And a government source telling CNN that both of those fighter planes from the Libyan Air Force were carrying bombs and that their machine guns were loaded for battle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What happens -- what's happening at the border between Libya and Egypt, as far as we can tell right now, Ivan?

WATSON: We're getting direct information now just in the east, Wolf, that the Libyan border guards have abandoned their posts, the coast guard have abandoned their posts in the east on the Egyptian border between the two countries and that there are now volunteers basically from tribes possibly wearing white vests who are armed who are now manning that border and effectively in charge of this portion of eastern Libya.

We're also hearing about large numbers of Egyptians desperate to flee to the east here into Egypt. And we have been getting accounts from other expatriate communities as well, Turkey, for example, trying to send a plane, Wolf, to the eastern-opposition-now-held city of Benghazi, having to turn that plane around, according to a senior Turkish government official that I spoke with, because the airport was completely out of control, and the Turkish government trying to get assurances from Moammar Gadhafi on Sunday that Turkish citizens will be protected.

But Gadhafi cannot guarantee that since he doesn't control the second largest city in his country, Benghazi, in the east -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How difficult, Ivan, is it to get reliable information out of Libya right now?

WATSON: Very hard. There is a virtual telecommunications blackout to the capital, Tripoli.

We have been trying to call for hours and hours. Some of our contacts also cannot get any calls through. I can't get through to the U.S. Embassy switchboard in Tripoli, Wolf, or to any cell phones either. And it does appear that Internet has by and large been shut down as well.

This is a playbook that we have seen other autocratic governments use in just the last six weeks throughout the Middle East as these protests have sprung up. We saw here Hosni Mubarak in Egypt shut down all of the cell phones in the country and the Internet for several days.

That did not work. We have seen Iran repeatedly use these types of tactics to try to crush its opposition demonstrations. And we have seen Bahrain tried to shut down telecommunications as well. Libya is a more isolated North African country. It's a smaller population as well.

And it has proven very effective. We're virtually blind right now about what is exactly going on in the Libyan capital after top- ranking Libyan officials made various serious threats to the opposition there.

BLITZER: I suspect we're going to know a lot more in the coming hours. Thanks, Ivan. We will stay in close touch with you.

So what happens to Libya if, if, after 42 years, the Gadhafi regime is toppled?

Brian Todd is looking into this part of the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this country has been ruled for four decades on the whim about of one man and, unlike Egypt, there's no major institution like a strong army to manage a transition. Some experts believe that could make Libya vulnerable to a surge of militant Islam.


TODD (voice-over): With his father's whereabouts a mystery, the trusted son of Moammar Gadhafi steps in front of TV cameras and warns the regime will fight to the last shot. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi says if the unrest continues:

GADHAFI (through translator): We will go into a fierce violence that will be worse than Iraq, worse than Yugoslavia. It will be a fierce civil war.

TODD: He says Libya's not like Tunisia or Egypt. And analysts agree. Some have likened this government to "The Sopranos."

David Schenker says it's a tribal-backed family-run fiefdom. And if they're pushed out...

DAVID SCHENKER, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: There really is no abiding and established government institution here, which I think makes them vulnerable over time, whether this is to another strongman or to Islamist forces.

TODD: Analysts say Libya has been a hotbed of jihadist activity. A group called the Libya Islamic Fighting Group has been allied with al Qaeda. Experts say in recent years many of its leaders have been jailed or forced abroad by the Gadhafi family as they tried to curry favor with the West, quite a turn for a leader who in the 1980s was considered by the U.S. and its allies to be a principal financier of terrorism.

Moammar Gadhafi was held responsible for the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988 and the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco which killed two U.S. servicemen. The U.S. hit back with airstrikes believed to have killed Gadhafi's daughter.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States launched a series of strikes against the headquarters, terrorist facilities and military assets that support Moammar Gadhafi's subversive activities.

TODD: Despite Gadhafi's recent steps to neutralize the Islamic Fighting Group, experts say there are other militant groups that could at least threaten to seize power if he leaves.

CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend traveled to Libya last year to meet with Gadhafi and his sons, at the Libyan government's invitation.

(on camera): What are the likelihoods of an Islamic militant group rising to power in Libya if the family leaves the scene?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: What I do worry about is the broader group doctor, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This is the old Algerian group the GSPC, which formally allied itself with al Qaeda, which is very capable, has real training capability and operational capability, and, frankly, could support Islamic extremists throughout the broader Maghreb north of North Africa.


TODD: Another analyst says that group, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has supported jihadists in Libya in the past.

A U.S. official told us a short time ago, so far, there are no major indications that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is poised to exploit the situation in Libya, but the official says -- quote -- "We are watching closely" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, there's also added concern because Libya has been a pipeline for militants in other conflicts. Talk about that.

TODD: That's right.

Analysts have told us that, at the height of the insurgency in Iraq some years ago, more young men traveled from Libya to join al Qaeda in Iraq than from any other country, except Saudi Arabia. So, they do have a history of supporting militancy in other countries as well.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's dig deeper right now with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's joining us. She's a member of the CIA External Advisory Committee. And, as we heard, last May, Fran visited high-ranking Libyan officials at the invitation of the Libyan government.

Fran, tell us how this trip that you took to Libya came about. What were you doing there?

TOWNSEND: Well, Wolf, they -- the Libyan government, like many governments around the world, has a P.R. -- works with P.R. firms here. And what they try to do is encourage former senior ranking officials to go and see what's changed, what's different, so they can speak about sort of current affairs and current events.

I had traveled to Libya when I was in the White House and had met with Colonel Gadhafi and one of his sons who was the head of the Olympic committee at that time and other security officials. I then on this trip when I went back met with Saif al-Gadhafi, and again with many of the security officials.

And it was clear Saif Gadhafi was quite proud of the role he had played in the release of al-Megrahi, the Pan Am 103 bomber, from Scottish custody, and was playing a more prominent role in the government.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about this son, because this rambling speech he gave on Libyan TV overnight, he made all sorts of wild threats.

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, I find it interesting. Saif al- Gadhafi is clearly -- he's Western-educated. He speaks perfectly beautiful English, perfectly understandable, quite bright, and has the trust -- what's most important in Libya is that he has the trust and confidence of his father, who everyone believed in the region was grooming him to take power when Gadhafi, Colonel Gadhafi, left as the leader.

You know, it's funny because, when I met with him, he was talking about rehabilitating the former fighters and leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. He was talking about sort of democratic reforms, throwing a wide net.

This -- what we saw on tape is a very different Saif al-Gadhafi than I saw in May of 2010.

BLITZER: Well, what I hear you saying, he was a much more charming guy when you saw him? Is that what you're saying?

TOWNSEND: Erudite and charming when he wishes to be, Wolf.

But clearly, right now, he's at the forefront of pushing back and oppressing the protesters on behalf his father and the Libyan regime.

BLITZER: This is basically a brutal regime run by one family, the Gadhafi family. Talk a little bit about Moammar Gadhafi.

TOWNSEND: You know, Wolf, it's important that our viewers understand, you know, when we think of security forces at least here in the west, they are constrained by the constitution. They are checked by the Justice Department and by Congress and the judiciary.

So there's many checks and balances. None of that exists in Libya. The security services are not constrained by anything other than the whims of the Gadhafi family. And their focus is entirely on regime instability internal to Libya, and so they can be unleashed on the Libyan people at will and day to day spend most of their resources and training monitoring regime stability and opposition.

And so they're very well poised to use their capability, their military capability, against their own people.

BLITZER: Fran, stand by for a moment because we have Ben Wedeman on the phone for us now. He's the first Western journalist to actually get into Libya.

You're there right now, Ben. Tell our viewers what you're seeing. Do some analysis for us. What's going on?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, what we saw is as we were driving in is that this part of eastern Libya is clearly under the control of the rebels, the forces that are opposed to Colonel Gadhafi.

We saw along the road a lot of groups of men with shotguns, with machine guns, in civilian clothing. They call themselves basically the popular committees that are trying to maintain some sort of order along the way.

But, clearly, the situation is very unstable. What we saw is that there are a lot of people, mostly Egyptians, who are leaving Libya at the moment. At the Egyptian border, we were told by Egyptian officials that 15,000 Egyptians left Libya, returning to Egypt.

There are some signs of normal life. Gas stations are open. Stores are open. We saw some -- what looked like kebab shops that are functioning. There's a fair amount of traffic on the road, although I was told that was mostly Egyptians leaving the country.

We drove by one ammunition dump that's on fire that -- sort of blasting the whole time as we were driving by. So the situation clearly in this area is better than in Tripoli, where you have the population in open revolt against Gadhafi. Here, it appears that the anti-Gadhafi forces are more or less firmly in control. I spoke to one man who said he's one of the leaders of the resistance. He has been meeting with the Libyan army in this part of the country. He says that the army has gone over to the side of the anti-Gadhafi forces. So, certainly, I think in general you can say the eastern part of the country is not under the control of Tripoli -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so the demonstrators, the pro-democracy movement, shall we say, the anti-Gadhafi element, they're in charge there. And it looks like they do have -- correct me if I'm wrong -- they do have the backing of the Libyan military, at least in the eastern part of the country around Benghazi and elsewhere?

WEDEMAN: That is correct.

That's where we were told by somebody with the -- what they call the resistance forces. It does appear that they're firmly in control, more or less, although we were told that there are still elements of the Gadhafi regime that are operating in the area, so this is why there's such a big presence in the streets of armed people, these so- called popular committees, who are worried that -- for instance, they're worried that they may -- the Gadhafi forces, the central government forces may parachute into this area.

So there's a good deal of tension, a lot of men on streets with weapons in the event that there is some sort of attempt to reassert central government control in eastern Libya -- Wolf.

BLITZER: When the son of Moammar Gadhafi, Ben, Saif Gadhafi, when he says that thousands of people are about to die if these demonstrators continue, I assume he speaks with authority there, and when he says that, that's a threat that the world should believe and take seriously.

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly, the Libyans I have spoken to do take this seriously. They are very concerned that this regime, the Gadhafi regime is determined to stay in power, whatever the cost.

They are very concerned that Gadhafi's forces will try to reassert control and will stop at nothing to do that. They have seen the -- what's going on in Tripoli. They have obviously experienced a good deal of this repression in the eastern part of the country as well. And they don't put it past Saif al-Islam Gadhafi or his father to basically stop at nothing to reassert their control -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And you've been -- I assume you have been to Libya before, Ben. You have covered the Middle East for us for a long time, North Africa. You get the sense right now that a historic change is about to occur in Libya?

WEDEMAN: Well, certainly, speaking to people here, that is the sense you get, that there's no going back. The people in eastern Libya seem well aware that there's no way that they will be able to live with a re-assertion of Gadhafi's control in this area. And of course I'm coming from Egypt, where they have just overthrown Hosni Mubarak. And before that, I was in Tunisia, where they overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It does seem that the impression of people is that this is a movement against the regimes that cannot be stopped But here in Libya, the level of resistance from the regime is violent and intense, and it worries people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what a lot of people say that, that Gadhafi won't hesitate to do to fellow Libyans what the now former dictators of Tunisia and see Egypt couldn't do, namely, get their own military to turn on average citizens who are simply demonstrating on the streets. We will see what happens.

All right, Ben Wedeman is the first Western TV journalist in Libya right now.

Ben, we're going to stay in very close touch with you. Please be careful over there.

Another one of our courageous journalists, Ben Wedeman, he is now in Libya reporting for us.

A key Libyan diplomat turns against the Gadhafi regime and accuses his country's leader of genocide -- details coming up.


BLITZER: First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Bahrain and Libya. Why all the unrest sweeping across the Arab world right now?

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on that.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are clearly different causes for the unrest country to country.

For example, over here in Bahrain, 70 percent of the population in Shiite. The ruling family is Sunni. There's been tension over that. Down here in Yemen, you have a president who's been in charge for more than 30 years, as it was in Egypt. There's been tension over that. But this is something that all of these countries have in common, economic problems being disproportionately felt by young people.

Let's take a look at Algeria over here. Unemployment there is 10 percent, but it's double that for the youth of the country. They comprise a third of the population. So, a quarter of the people are living in poverty, one of the reasons there's anger there.

Libya, the one that's on fire right now, unemployment 30 percent. The youth population -- look at that -- more than half the country. About one-third of Libyans live at or below the national poverty line. Let's take a look over here at Yemen, unemployment 35 percent. The youth population, 64 percent -- 45 percent of the people living at or below the poverty line.

And they're facing a real problem of dwindling resources, including water, which they will soon run out of. In coming years, that will pose another challenge. And we go up here to Bahrain, unemployment there is only 5 to 9 percent. But, again, the youth population is about a third of the country. Their economy has been dominated by oil.

And even though they have tried to diversify, the global economic crisis has crippled their diversification projects.

So, Wolf, here's the underlying threat of it all. The simple truth is, for all the differences country to country -- and those are real and they are important -- the unifying thread is a lot of young people who are feeling helpless and hopeless and blaming the people in charge and saying they want them out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Diplomats at the United Nations are famously tight-lipped, but what some Libyan diplomats are now saying about Moammar Gadhafi has been stunning.

And in less than two weeks, in less than two weeks, the U.S. government could come to a grinding halt. Are lawmakers hard at work on a compromise right now? Hardly. We're going to tell you what they're up to.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the breaking news, the fresh violence in Libya right now, where the Gadhafi regime is said to have fired into crowds of protesters, killing many of them.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the world is watching with alarm. But is there any action the Obama administration can take to stop the killing?

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's standing by with more -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're right. That's the big question right now.

Two Republican senators, Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk, came out just a few hours ago and demanded that President Obama be more forceful in trying to speak out on behalf of the Libyan people and stop this violence.

And, as you noted, Secretary of State Clinton did say it's time for the bloodshed to end. But various Middle East experts say that, beyond the tough talk, there's not much this White House can do.


HENRY (voice-over): It was less than a month ago President Obama focused most of his State of the Union address on the economy, devoting just a few paragraphs to foreign policy. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us.

HENRY: Well, the world has changed yet again, from Egypt to Tunisia, and now Libya, which has put international affairs back on the front burner. Aides say the president is getting frequent briefings on the situation in Libya, and is now considering all appropriate actions to deal with the escalating violence there.

JON ALTERMAN, MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The president doesn't get to shape the agenda. He can't affect what's happening either in the economy directly and he can't affect what's happening overseas.

HENRY: What's been happening in the Mideast, according to the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is aging leaders like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and now Moammar Gadhafi in Libya have been ignoring young people in their own countries.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: When the 25s didn't know what was going on in the rest of the world, that was one thing. They now know.

They know they are not getting their fair share, that life is not going to be good for them. The question is, will, as in the case of the Libyans, the protesters simply be shot?

HENRY: A chilling conclusion. And Middle East experts say there's not much the Obama administration can do about it.

ALTERMAN: I think the reality is this. When a country is about to go through its most profound change in a half-century, the advice that people get from foreigners, no matter how well-meaning, doesn't really change in a profound way the way people act.


HENRY: Now, Secretary Clinton said today that the U.S. is working very closely with various partners around the world to send a strong message to the Libyan government to stop the violence. But unlike Egypt, where the U.S. had long and deep ties, they only restored diplomatic relations with Libya a couple of years ago, at the tail end of the Bush administration. So, it's very possible these various pleas could fall on deaf ears -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The U.S. does have an embassy, though, in Tripoli right now. Are U.S. diplomats there reporting on what's going on? What are they -- what are they saying? What -- what kind of reports are the president -- is the president getting? Do we have any sense of that, Ed?

HENRY: Well, we don't have a lot of deep knowledge about it, to be frank with you. We've only gotten very limited bits of information suggesting that the violence has gotten pretty bad on the ground. That has certainly been conveyed to the president. Also when you talk to various senior officials, they say that there are not a lot of good options for the U.S. in terms of dealing with this, because while we do have that embassy there, there have not been long deep ties with Libya, obviously, and it's much harder to break through, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we tried calling the embassy to get maybe the ambassador or a spokesman to come on and talk to us on the phone. We failed, but we'll keep trying to get through to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, see if we can speak with one of the Americans there.

Ed, thank you.

HENRY: Thanks.

BLITZER: In a stunning turn of events, a senior Libyan diplomat in New York City has now lashed out at the regime back home in very harsh terms. Let's go live to our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth. He's got the details -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With his fellow countrymen dying in the streets and a tough-talking speech by the son of Moammar Gadhafi, the son of Moammar -- the son of the deputy Libyan ambassador to the United Nations and his fellow diplomats had had enough. And they staged a diplomatic revolt.


ROTH (voice-over): It was an extraordinarily undiplomatic moment, the deputy U.N. ambassador from Libya denouncing the leader of his own country, Moammar Gadhafi.

IBRAHIM DABBASHI, LIBYAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, a declaration of war against the Libyan people. The regime of Gadhafi has already started the genocide against the Libyan people for quite some time from the 15th of January.

ROTH: The envoy was backed up in the lobby of the Libyan mission by a dozen other Libyan staff members. The deputy ambassador said he isn't worried about his own fate. His team is more concerned about the Libyan people under attack inside Libya.

DABBASHI: We are expecting a genocide in Tripoli so we are calling on the United Nations to impose a non-flight zone on all the cities of Tripoli so to cut off all supplies of arms and materials to the regime.

ROTH: An extremely surreal sight: in the shadow of one of the many portraits of Moammar Gadhafi, on a horse, his deputy in New York demanding the international criminal court investigate Gadhafi for crimes against humanity.

DABBASHI: I call on all countries of the world also to not permit Gadhafi to escape to their -- inside their territories, and I call on all of them to watch carefully any -- any amount of money which may be flew outside of Libya.

ROTH: The deputy said he didn't know where his boss, the ambassador, was. Unless they are in agreement on what he said, it should be an interesting day at the office on Tuesday.


ROTH: And continuing its pattern of "hear no evil, see no evil," the U.N. Security Council has no planned meetings despite the request by the Libyan deputy ambassador to come to the aid of the Libyan people.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in a new statement just minutes ago, toughest language yet on Libya, saying he's outraged at press reports that Libyan authorities are ordering, in effect, the firing on demonstrators from helicopters and planes and that he is calling for an immediate end to the violence. Outside U.N. headquarters a short time ago, about 50 or 60 Libyan people demonstrated, calling for an international assistance for the people of Libya.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Richard, we're just getting word from Libyan TV, state TV in Libya, that Gadhafi, the ruler there, is about to go on Libyan state TV, speak to the people of Libya. We're monitoring that. We'll have a translation. We'll tell our viewers what's going on. So stand by. We'll hear what Moammar Gadhafi has to say. Richard Roth reporting from the U.N.

We're going to stay on top of the Libya story. There's other news we're following, including weapons, weapons of war. They are now on display and on sale at an international arms bazaar in the Middle East. We're going behind the scenes.


BLITZER: Get back to the drama unfolding in Libya right now. But Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM, including a late word coming in of a serious bus crash.

What's going on, Lisa?


Well, it's a disastrous bus crash in California. The bus, carrying more than two dozen teenagers, tumbled over a cliff and crashed into trees today near Twin Peaks, east of Los Angeles. Witnesses are reported seeing at least two people are dead and dozens more are injured. Officials tell CNN affiliate KCAL that bus belongs to a church.

And at least 26 civilians were killed by a suicide bomber today in Kunduz province in Afghanistan. That death toll is expected to rise. Another 36 people were injured in that attack. The bomber struck a line of people collecting identification cards from the governor's office.

And Facebook, well, it may be worth billions, but now it has something money can't buy: a namesake. An Egyptian man named his baby girl Facebook to honor the role the Web site played in the Egypt -- in Egypt's revolution. According to an Egyptian newspaper, the man wanted to express his joy at the achievements made by the protesters. Many people are crediting social media with fueling the protests, which led to that revolution, Wolf. So imagine that, Wolf. A little baby girl named Facebook.

BLITZER: Who would have thought? It's a crazy world out there. Good luck to that little baby girl and her family, Facebook. We hope she has a wonderful life.

Lisa, thanks very much.

While the Arab world erupts in turmoil and violence, the biggest weapons show in the region is selling everything from rifles to missiles. We're going there. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As turmoil spreads throughout the Middle East, the region's biggest weapon sale is open for business right now. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is in Abu Dhabi.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right here right now, this is the center of the world's arms market. Weapons buyers and sellers from around the word are gathered here in the Persian Gulf.

(voice-over) It looks, sounds, and feels like a war zone. But as music plays, this is very much a deliberate show in the United Arab Emirates, aimed at selling weapons even as unrest has rattled governments across the region.

This is the opening ceremony for the International Defense Exhibition, IDEX, the largest weapons display in the Middle East and Africa. Nations stocking up on everything from armored vehicles to hi-tech unmanned drones. Hundreds of billions of dollars in arms sales are at stake.

PAUL BEAVER, BRITISH DEFENSE ANALYST: This is the show for anyone who wants to talk to people from what the British used to call east of Suez. In other words, for North Africa, for the Middle East into Asia.

STARR: With uprisings sweeping the Middle East from Egypt to Bahrain, government buyers are increasingly looking at what they need to keep their country secure.

BEAVER: And nowhere better at the moment than the Middle East, where governments are looking at how is their infrastructure protected; how can they deal with situations like disturbances with less-than-lethal weapons?


STARR: Pakistani Lieutenant General Shujaat Zamir Dar is chairman of the government Pakistan ordnance factories which supply the army with weapons. He's showing off the latest assault and infantry gear to potential buyers.

DAR: Very rapid rate of fire. And very accurate.

STARR (on camera): Do you sell in the Middle East? Who's a good customer out here for you?

DAR: Like Oman, Bahrain, UAE, and now even Saudi Arabia. The most popular is the MP-5, which is a very suitable weapon for internal security.

STARR (voice-over): But the general explains, I cannot buy. I'm not a licensed government agency.

(on camera) So after being all over IDEX, nobody's going to sell me anything. I tried assault rifles, not that I'm really going to buy one, warships, tanks, missiles, all of it. And of course, these manufacturers don't sell to individuals.

But finally, we found this nice little company here, and they make these armored inserts for these kinds of vehicles. The economy version, just about $100,000.

More than 50,000 people are visiting this exhibition. It's proof some will tell you that the world's arms trade is doing quite well here in the Middle East -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. Business is good in the Middle East when it comes to weapons.

Four Americans now face their worst nightmare off the coast of Oman. They're at the mercy of pirates. But a savior may be ready to swoop in and rescue them. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Moammar Gadhafi has just spoken out on Libyan state TV, insisting he is in Libya, has not gone to Venezuela. Listen to what he just said.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm not in France or in Venezuela. I'm still with all these dogs (ph). I'm still here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: That was the -- that was a very, very brief clip. Libyan TV, state TV just showed that live on Libyan TV, Gadhafi getting out of a car, saying he was not in France, saying he was not in Venezuela.

The British foreign secretary had suggested earlier in the day he might be on his way to Venezuela. The Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chavez has had a good relationship with Gadhafi. Chavez went to Libya to celebrate 40 years of power by Gadhafi not all that long ago.

But Gadhafi making a point he hasn't gone to France, hasn't gone to Venezuela. He remains in Libya. Let me play the clip for you one more time.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm not in France or in Venezuela. I'm still with all these dogs (ph). I'm still here.


BLITZER: I didn't exactly say what the -- understand what the translator said, "I'm with all these dogs." But we're going to try to work on the translation and get a little bit more precise translation for our viewers.

Bottom line: Libyan state TV insisting Gadhafi is in Libya right now, remains in Libya at least for now and has not gone outside of the country.

We'll stay on top of this story. And we'll have much more coming up on Libya and all of the other important news right after this.


BLITZER: The United States Navy is now shadowing a yacht hijacked in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates over the weekend. Four Americans are on board. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, talked to a family friend.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, right now the U.S. military has eyes on this situation. But the key is getting those Americans off that yacht before it hits land in Somalia.

(voice-over) It was a mix of faith and adventure, but the good friend of a kidnapped American couple says Jean and Scott Adam were not naive, trying to push their Christian faith in the Muslim world.

SCOTT STOLNITZ, FAMILY FRIEND: They were not proselytizing evangelicals. They were using their Bible mission as a way to break the ice with Christian communities, particularly in the Pacific.

LAWRENCE: That's where they started, meeting other Christians in Thailand. The retired couple and two other American friends set out for the southern tip of India. Then their yacht, The Quest, split off from a group of other yachters and took a separate route to Oman. They had planned to sail through the Suez Canal and out into the Mediterranean.

If they were concerned about anything, it wasn't on the high seas but a scheduled refueling stop in Djibouti. Jean Adam blogged, "I have no idea what will happen is these ports."

STOLNITZ: These people are victims. They were in international waters peacefully going about their own business. And basically, a bunch of criminals took them over for what they freely admit is economic gain.

LAWRENCE: Pirates seized their yacht off Oman, and The Quest is now believed to be in the waters between Yemen and northern Somalia.

A U.S. Navy warship with helicopters on board has been trailing the hijacked boat. A commander of the Navy's 5th Fleet says the military is considering options but won't specify how close to the yacht they may be. The key is intercepting it before it makes land.

In 2009, pirates stormed a British couple's yacht and dragged them back to Somalia. They weren't released until November, more than a year after the hijacking.

But in the case of the Adams, if it's ransom the pirates want, it won't be easy to pay.

STOLNITZ: That boat probably represents more than half their net worth in the world.

LAWRENCE (on camera): A U.S. defense official who has worked on anti-piracy missions says these pirates are usually teenagers, which makes any sort of negotiation extremely unpredictable. But he also says, the ones from northern Somalia are usually not radical Islamists, which means the Americans being Christian or carrying Bibles won't make the situation any worse that in already is -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Chris, thank you. Chris Lawrence reporting.

Connecticut has a new gridiron hero. He hasn't won any games, but he's winning over fans. We're going to show you how.


BLITZER: Accuracy is certainly everything for a football quarterback. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen trick shots with golf balls and trick shots with basketballs. But trick shots with footballs? For this kid it's like shooting footballs in a barrel or in a basket.

His name is Johnny MacAtee (ph), second string quarterback at the University of Connecticut, presenting his...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trick shot video.

MOOS: ... that's now gone viral. Football meets pool. Ball in the corner pocket.

Johnny started doing tricks at practice back in high school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would try to hit the underclassmen with the footballs.

MOOS: Doing football tricks can open doors, in particular doors that only open from the inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So one day we were sitting there, and somebody is knocking. Nobody -- everybody is looking: "I don't want to get it. I don't want to get it."

Said, "All right, I got it." I just threw the ball at it, and it actually opened.

MOOS: He can hit a goal post. He can hit the cross-bar. He can knock an object off his buddy's head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it was his idea. We were doing it on a -- a practice dummy. And he said, "Just do it on me."

MOOS (on camera): Have you ever hurt anyone? Have you ever, you know? Have you ever, like, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One time I hit a kid below the waist by accident.

MOOS (voice-over): Personal foul. He doesn't usually get it on the first try, skeet shooting. Took about six plates. Johnny never heard of a famous French prankster named Remy (ph) who does tricks with a soccer ball. He's hit bikes. And even a police van.


MOOS: For Remy (ph), the chase is part of the fun. But when Johnny pumped a football at a pizza delivery vehicle, he first asked if the driver minded.

We couldn't figure out why Johnny is second string.

(on camera) Why aren't you the first-string quarterback?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Maybe I need to study the playbook more instead of doing trick shots.

MOOS (voice-over): Like throwing a completion blindfolded. The trick-shot video was done in a single day. The last trick, the hardest, more than 20 takes. It's a TD. No ,it's a basket. Whatever it is, it's contagious.

(on camera) Oh, my God, I got it in.

(voice-over) Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.