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Will U.S. Arm Libyan Rebels?; "Not Primarily a NATO Operation"; Searching for Collateral Damage; Alleged Torture of Egypt Protesters; Elizabeth Taylor's Impact in Washington; Odyssey Dawn Under Fire; A Change In Command Over Coalition Air Strikes In Libya Is In The Works; Libyan Rebel Sacrifices Himself and Turned the Tide in Benghazi

Aired March 26, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A change in command over coalition air strikes in Libya is in the works now this hour. The terms and limits of NATO's new role, what it means for the mission and for U.S. forces.

Libyan rebels now have a new hope of pushing back Moammar Gadhafi's fighters. We'll tell you about a man who sacrificed his life to help the opposition.

Plus, the dangers and challenges in the disaster zone of Japan. Brian Todd has an account of the search and rescuers. And our crew, what all of them experienced in the quake and tsunami wreckage.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM



BLITZER: First to a key battleground city where rebels are making headway in the battle to seize control from Libyan Moammar Gadhafi. Here's CNN's Arwa Damon.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This does look a bit more organized than we have seen the opposition on the front line in the past.

We find the front line a short distance away from the northern entrance to Ajdabiya. Gadhafi's troops still control it and the western road.

(On camera): So you're saying these air strikes destroyed three tanks -- Gadhafi tanks positioned at the entrance to Ajdabiya. They are explaining that there are a few more that Gadhafi's forces have dug into the sand in between the trees.

(Voice over): The poorly equipped opposition fighters are still struggling in the face of the ongoing artillery and tank barrage.

(On camera): We are seeing a unit move in and we are told that they are planning to try to loop around and launch an assault from one of the other entrances onto the city.

Among those on the front is Massoud.

You're a musician and a fighter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I became a fighter only two weeks ago.

DAMON: What kind of music?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I play African music and some European music.

DAMON: How old are you?


DAMON: 36.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm married with two kids, and my wife she is pregnant.

(Voice over): The fighting has been so intense it's hard for anyone to get into Ajdabiya for nearly a week now.

(On camera): When was the last time you heard anything about the civilians in Ajdabiya?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation in Ajdabiya, they have no water. They have no electricity. They have no medicine. They are in a very, very bad situation. A lot of them can't leave.

(On camera): Because they are in the part that Gadhafi's troops control?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Control, yes. They start shooting us.

DAMON: Snipers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By snipers. They killed today, the morning, a lot of people by snipers and by attacking, by attacks. And there people dying. We cannot reach them. If we want to -- we try to reach them, but the snipers shoot us a lot.

DAMON: How many?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not so sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About nine people. We don't have army. We are just civilians. We are fighting only, we have no leader. But we are trying. We are trying.

DAMON: From what we are seeing it seems as if the opposition is slowly pushing this front line forward. But based on what the fighters are telling us, they have not yet been able to deal Gadhafi's military that final blow that would allow the opposition to have full control over Ajdabiya. Arwa Damon, CNN, outside Ajdabiya, Libya.


BLITZER: As allied forces hammered Libyan targets this week. CNN's Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson got a firsthand look at the results of a missile strike on a naval facility in Tripoli. Watch this.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is very obviously, very obviously, a military facility here. Government officials are saying this was just a repair facility. They're saying nothing was working here at this particular facility.

When you look inside, the bodies of the rocket launchers here, there are no missiles inside them, but there is plenty of evidence around here to support the best assessment that this was very much a military target, that it had an on going military operation.

(Voice over): Four mobile rocket systems destroyed in the attack. Other equipment not damaged, the government not so happy for us to see.

The writing on them here is in Cyrillic, but we are also being told that this whole facility here, is a repair facility for these certainly the missile systems. Written on here, some writing in Arabic, but very clearly from what we are see here, Russian made.

So, what was this facility here?


ROBERTSON: Yes, but rocket launchers?

ALI: It is a rocket. This is launchers, but rocket inside, I guess not active. You see?

ROBERTSON: But there are rockets stored around the corner here?

ALI: You see, here, I'm not from this department, but I know this is a big store. Big store only.

ROBERTSON: The strike here was a little over 12 hours ago. The smoldering wreckage is still burning here. This looks like cables that have been on fire here. This is a crater from one of the missiles. And this gives you an idea of just how deep and big this hole is. Therefore an idea of the size and scale of scope of the missiles being fired in here.

We're right in the harbor facility here. Just around the corner -- and I'm going to take you to look at it now, I have just spotted it. This is the harbor facility and not far from here there are Libyan naval vessels. I'm looking over there and I can see what appears to be some sort of anti-aircraft gun, some sort of weapon mounted up there.

Officials say few injuries here. Debris all around the dock yard. It's not clear why the government has brought us to this place that is so obviously, obviously a military facility, but perhaps the answer is up there on that burnt out rocket launcher.

The man passing down the picture of Moammar Gadhafi. They seem to want to show that, A, they are victims and, B, that they are not, not, backing down. Nic Robertson, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


BLITZER: President Obama is facing criticism for the U.S. mission in Libya. "The New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof, he is joining us with his thoughts on what is going on.

Plus, stand by for dramatic stories of Libyan rebels outgunned by pro- Gadhafi forces and one man's sacrifice to help them fight back.

Our own Brian Todd shares his personal account of time in the Japan disaster zone. And the heroic work of search and rescue crews.


BLITZER: The commander in charge of U.S. operations in Libya says coalition forces are not directly supporting rebel fighters, but there are growing questions about whether that should change.

Joining us now from Cairo, Nick Kristof, he is the columnist for "The New York Times" back in the Middle East right now.

Nick, is it time for the U.S. -- do you believe -- to do more as far as helping the opposition in Libya? For example, arming the rebels?

NICK KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I would be a little bit wary of arming the rebels, partly because there is always some suspicion of U.S. involvement there. And partly because you always wonder what will happen to the weapons after the fact.

I also think that Gulf countries are already engaging in providing them with arms and ammunition, which they critically need. So I don't know that the U.S. needs to do that. What is really critically needed and what I think the U.S. really can do is to continue to be involved in those air strikes, to do some jamming of Libyan military communications, and civilian propaganda and to hit the heavy artillery, and that armor that Libya has.

BLITZER: Because you write in your column in "The New York Times" that the U.S.-should jam the radio and TV broadcasts of Gadhafi -- of the Libyan government, if you will, because that's helping him, and his war against the opposition.

KRISTOF: Yeah. It's not because anybody in Libya actually believes that propaganda. They know much better than we do that the propaganda is full of lies, but what it does do is signal to the Libyan elite, to the Libyan military, that he is weak. That ultimately he will be going down. What we really need to do is try to peel off the Libyan military and the Libyan elite, from Gadhafi, and make them realize -- and a lot of them are opportunists. They want to end up on the winning side -- and to make it very clear to them that Gadhafi is not going to be on a winning side. I think cutting out his radio and TV would be one step to doing that.

BLITZER: And the ultimate goal, even though the U.N. Security Council resolution is narrower, the ultimate goal, I assume you believe, should be getting rid of Gadhafi as leader of Libya.

KRISTOF: Yes. And the reason the Arab League is behind this, the reason we have this international coalition to protect civilians is because the world does regard Gadhafi as a national security threat, as somebody who endangers the world as well.

While it isn't in the U.N. resolution that's clearly the aim of what's going on. Nobody knows exactly how to get there. There are uncertainties about that, but it is the aim. I think that it is reasonable, though we don't quite know how it's going to happen, that as his regime loses its military assets, as the momentum on the battlefield begins to turn, that Gadhafi's days at some point are going to be numbered. I hope that some point is pretty soon.

BLITZER: Whatever happens in Libya, how important is that message that will go out of Libya to the rest of North Africa, the Middle East in terms of the dictators who were watching what's happening in Libya now?

KRISTOF: I think one of the problems worldwide has been not only that there is impunity for massacring your citizens, but often, frankly, a benefit. That, you know, frankly the empirical lesson, if you are a dictator somewhere is if you make concessions to protesters, if your army does not shoot them, then you may have to make retirement plans. You may lose a lot of wealth. On the other hand, if you open fire on them, you may secure your position and your children's position. We have to change that.

It was striking that when Sri Lanka cracked down on its protest, and really used ruthless means, then it promptly got visits from the Burmese military junta, for example. Because they wanted to study how you go about cracking down on your civilian population.

I think it would be very, very dangerous to send the message out from Libya that Gadhafi, by attacking hospitals, by mowing down civilians, is actually going to do what Mubarak and Ben Ali were not able to do. And that is to stay in power and keep his family in place.

BLITZER: When should the United States intervene, militarily, in a country where awful things are happening, for example, like Libya as opposed to the Ivory Coast or Sudan, Darfur? What's the benchmark there?

KRISTOF: Well, I think that a lot of critics, especially liberal critics, are pointing to the U.S. involvement in Libya and saying this is inconsistent. This is hypocritical because you are intervening with a country with oil, and you don't intervene in a country that undergoes terrible humanitarian disasters for an even longer period, that doesn't have oil.

You know, I think we have to plead guilty. There is a real inconsistency there. But I guess I would also say, you have to start somewhere. One of the oldest problems in the world of humanitarianism and the world of international relations is what you do when a leader begins to devour his people. We are not going to intervene in every case, but in some cases we will be able to build an international coalition, and there will be the popular support that will make it clear that we can actually accomplish something.

So I think that in this case we should do it. I would point out that in other areas of humanitarian intervention, for example, feeding the starving. We don't have to say that unless we reach every starving child, it's not worth it. Just because we didn't intervene in some cases we still should have intervened in Bosnia. I think we should have intervened in Rwanda. I would love to see more international attention to the tragedy unfolding in Ivory Coast, but if we can't muster the gumption to do that, let's at least support the people of Libya and prevent massacres there.

BLITZER: Nick Kristof, back in the Middle East. Appreciate it very much. Thank you.

KRISTOF: My pleasure.

BLITZER: So just what does NATO's new role in the Libyan war mean for U.S. forces? I'll ask a former commander of the NATO alliance.

Plus, surviving in Japan's disaster zone. Our own Brian Todd just back, sharing his biggest challenges covering this crisis.


BLITZER: The official death toll in Japan has now climbed to over 10,000 two weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami. Thousands of others are still listed as missing. Our CNN crew experienced some of the danger in the disaster zone firsthand. Brian Todd is with us. He is back here in Washington, safe and sound, after he and his crew witnessed some unbelievable events over the past few weeks.

What stood out most in your mind, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, Wolf, the thing that strikes out most is in looking back over the last several days, the level of devastation when standing in it.

Now, the pictures we sent back were incredible and they really told a great story. But when you're standing in the middle of it and you see the sweep of devastation all around you and you start to realize the sheer force of the water, and what it must have done. Then you start picture what it must have been like to either be there or be on slightly higher ground and watch everything get swept away.

It's an overwhelming feeling. You just couldn't help but just be so sympathetic to the people who had to live through that, and of course those who did not. BLITZER: You went with a search and rescue team from Northern Virginia, here in Fairfax County. What were the biggest challenges you had in covering the story?

TODD: One of the challenges was something you might find very simple; just walking 10, 15 feet. You had to navigate through some of the incredible rubble that we're showing in these pictures and elsewhere. I'll give you a kind of a look at what that is like when I took my DV camera -- this is an image of me just following one of the rescuer. But I took my DV camera and tried to kind of navigate it while filming that myself. Here's a look at how I did.


TODD: Part of the complication is just walking from one place to another. See this area behind me, right here, it's just a few feet away. I can't walk 15, 20 feet without having to just navigate through some -- well, I'm going to take you through it.

I have to go down here, and the camera's probably going all over the place because I'm in a ravine of debris. I have to step this way, and kind of come up here, watch my balance. Everything is slippery, of course, because it's snowing. Now I'm here. And now I can kind of walk.


TODD: Sharp objects everywhere, twisted metal, concrete. Not easy to walk around for anybody. Another challenge that we faced, Wolf, transmission. We transmitted by a machine called a B-gan (ph), which is essentially, a kind of a satellite computer hookup where you can transmit your images. Costs about $16 a minute. The computer has to be pointing in a certain direction to hook up with the satellite. That was a challenge.

Another challenge, you have seen these before. MREs, Meals Ready to Eat, like the army does in wartime. About 3,000 to 6,000 calories, but you have to prepare it in a certain way. My producer Dougal McConnell (ph), kind of gave a demonstration of how to do it.


These are the rescuers from L.A. and Fairfax County that CNN has been embedded with. Literally embedded with, as you can see here is the standard issue sleeping bag and cot that some of these folks have been in. Also standard issue, meals ready to eat. That's right, meals in a pouch. Just add water, heat them and you're ready to go.


TODD: We were eating those for about eight straight days. I want to say a word about Dougal McConnell, and my other colleague Doug Shance (ph), our photojournalists. These guys, Wolf, true heroes. I would not go anywhere without those guys. They never complained about the dangers we were facing. Never said, gee, I don't think we should go in there. They charged in ahead of me sometimes, and with me every time. I didn't deserve these guys, frankly, but they were the real heroes of the story.

BLITZER: You were blessed to have them. And we were blessed to have all three of you covering the story for us. Brian, thanks very much.

TODD: Thank you.

BLITZER: Didn't get a shower for a week? Is that what happened?

TODD: For about a week. You didn't want to go near us in those last few days.


BLITZER: Glad you're home. Thank you very much.

We'll have much more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are also watching NATO, they are taking charge of the no-fly zone over Libya, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions about how far it will go. The former NATO supreme allied commander, General George Joulwan, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with special insight.

Plus, the fall of Mubarak hasn't necessarily meant the end of abuse and torture in Egypt. We are snow speaking with some victims. They are speaking out.


BLITZER: Since the allied air strikes began the Libyan opposition has consolidated the hold over Benghazi, that is the country's second largest city. People there have openly demonstrated in support of the air campaign, but the rebels say their stronghold was secured in large part by the actions of one man. CNN's Reza Sayah has the story from Benghazi.

We must caution you, his report contains some disturbing images.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Rebel fighters in street clothes going head to head with a Libyan army tank. The amateur video purportedly shot last week, a dramatic glimpse of the war for Libya, pitting civilians against Gadhafi's heavily armed forces.

Despite being severely outgunned, this is what rebel fighters did last month to the regime's military barracks in what is now the opposition capitol of Benghazi, the destruction of the compound, the turning point in the fight for the key city. To many here, Al Mehdi Zeu (ph) was the hero of that fight.

A 49-year-old oil company worker, husband, father of two, the best way to help the opposition, he decided, was to sacrifice his life. His two teenage daughters say they had no idea what their father had planned. His wife, too distraught to appear on camera. "We're not able to express how much we miss him," says Sajeda. "We miss him a lot, says her sister, Zuhur. He was with us every moment of our lives.

(On camera): This is where Al Mehdi Zeu (ph) gave his life. It is the old military barracks here in Benghazi. It is pretty much demolished today, but on February 19, rebel fighters had surrounded it and they were facing heavy firepower. They were trying to get inside the military barracks, they couldn't. They needed something to shift their momentum. What Al Mehdi did was his packed the car full of plastic car fuel containers and cooking gas cylinders. Witnesses say he parked his car right over there where the SUV is and prayed and read the Koran for about 30 minutes. Then he sped toward the main gate, where he blew himself and his car up.

(Voice over): This is a picture of Mehdi's best friend, Abdul Farhoud, carrying his remains after the blast.

ABDUL FARHOUD, AL MEHDI'S BEST FRIEND: If I didn't see his body in the car I could not believe it.

SAYAH: He says Al Mehdi's suicide attack sent Gadhafi troops running, clearing the way for rebel fighters to overtake the barracks.

FARHOUD: He's a hero, he's a real hero.

SAYAH: For opposition forces the taking of the barracks was a monumental victory, made possible, they say, by Al Mehdi, one of hundreds of civilians who have died in the war for Libya. For two daughters, the sudden loss of their father is heart-wrenching, but one they say they are honored to live with.

"He did something very important. We're definitely very proud of him." Reza Sayah, CNN, Benghazi, Libya.


BLITZER: So how far is the U.S. willing to go in Libya? Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanol posed the question to President Obama during his Latin American tour earlier in the week.


JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Can you, will you give military support to the rebels?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, obviously we are discussing with the coalition what steps can be taken. I think that our hope is that the first thing that happens, once we have cleared the space, is that the rebels are able to start discussing how they organize themselves, how they are articulate their aspirations for the Libyan people and create a legitimate government.

And, you know, potentially what we may see is that all the enthusiasm the Libyan people had for a change in government that was occurring a few weeks ago but that Gadhafi, through just brutal application of force, made people fearful, that that can resurface.

It may be that it's not a matter of military might, but instead an idea that's come to the Libyan people that it's time for a change that ends up ultimately sweeping Gadhafi out of power.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: NATO has announced it will assume command of the no-fly zone over Libya. Still some lingering questions about protecting civilians on the ground. Listen to what the NATO secretary general told me in THE SITUATION ROOM Thursday night.


ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: It will be a NATO command, but I also have to say that we will include contributing partners from the region in this operation.

It's of outmost importance to stress that this is not primarily a NATO operation. It is a broad international effort in which we will include partners from the region that have pledged to contribute to this protection of civilians in Libya.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get some more on what it all needs from the NATO Supreme Allied commander, retired U.A. Army General George Joulwan.

General, thanks very much for coming in. Do you have a good appreciation now? It looks like NATO will be in charge of this operation, but there are still lingering questions.

GENERAL GEORGE JOULWAN, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: A lot of questions. I would hope that the ministerial meetings coming up and the meeting in London in particular --

BLITZER: That's the next Tuesday?

JOULWAN: Yes, will help clarify that. I think what needs to happen, there has to be unity of command as you go forward here. You can't say one person or agency will do this on the ground and the other in the air.

NATO is, I think, the body to do that. So I think you're going to come to some agreement here that NATO will be in charge in the air and on the ground.

BLITZER: They say the model they are looking at is Afghanistan where there is a U.S.-led operation. There's a NATO operation as well. There are non-NATO members participating. Does it make sense to do what they are doing in Afghanistan in Libya?

JOULWAN: I think it can be looked at. But one of the challenges here is that I haven't seen the discussion of ground forces -- NATO ground force there is as we have in Afghanistan. BLITZER: They don't want to send -- the United States -- the president says no U.S. ground troop wills go in.

JOULWAN: So I think you need to understand as you come up with the command and control arrangement that you will not have ground forces involved, at least not initially.

So I think the Afghan model could be looked at. I think the Bosnian model can be looked as well on how that was handled, but you have to get agreement on the mission and on who's in charge. That has to come first.

BLITZER: As far as the mission is concerned what's confusing to a lot of us from the beginning is that this United Nations Security Council resolution, 1973, says the mission is to protect civilians and create a no-fly zone.

But the president of the United States says the objective has to be that Gadhafi must go. Now, that's a mission beyond what the U.N. has authorized.

JOULWAN: It's confusing. I think what we have to do -- and I would hope after these meetings -- is get rid of the confusion and get clarity about what you're going to have this very powerful organization called NATO plus all the other partners that will come with it, what you want them to do. Really, what is the end state that we are looking for?

BLITZER: The notion now that a Canadian will be the commander of this mission, this no-fly zone plus related mission in Libya, is that ever a problem for U.S. troops to be under the command of a non-American?

JOULWAN: No. We had American ground forces, say, in Bosnia under the ale lied rapid reaction core, a three-star British general that was out of Germany. This has happened.

That's what the integrated command structure of NATO was all about. That's why getting this command structure in place is extremely important and not winging it here to get something in place that can give good command and control and clarity of mission.

BLITZER: The clarity of mission is critical right now. What is the end result and what is the exit strategy?

JOULWAN: Well, first of all, I read the 1973 U.N. resolution. There are some very, very clear points in there that has to be made. The challenges for the military commander, which I found, again, in the Balkans were to operationalize all of that.

What does it mean to take all necessary steps? How do you translate that? How do you translate peace accords into an operational mission? That is yet to be done and that is what I hope happens in the next few days.

BLITZER: Should the U.S. and NATO and others arm the rebels? JOULWAN: Again, that's a challenge. Then what? If they get in trouble are we going to support them on the ground? We put an seclusion zone around Sarajevo for all sides. There was an inter- entity boundary that neither side could cross.

And I think you have to be careful here as you get the clarity of mission, what do you mean? I think you need a separation in my view. Put an exclusion zone where nobody can fire and you can take action if somebody does.

But you have to go back to the U.N. resolution all necessary means is a powerful statement.

BLITZER: Would all necessary mean also include the United States jamming Libyan state radio and television broadcasts?

JOULWAN: I would put it under the larger rubric of NATO doing it. Once you have NATO involved it's called rules of engagement. I had to fight very hard for that. I went at three in the morning with the North Atlantic Council getting clarity here.

But those sort of things need to be hammered out and it can be done and jamming is certainly one of them.

BLITZER: The regional unrest, you have watched this Middle East, North Africa region for a long time. It's almost breathtaking what's happening right now.

JOULWAN: But there is great opportunity here. That's why it's very important. NATO, by the way, since 1994 has had something called the Mediterranean dialogue, which with all the nations around the Mediterranean were part of that and it's been going strong.

So I think it's an outreach here to create a much wider - Israel, by the way, is part of that. So I think there is opportunity here in this region of unrest that I think also if we do it right we can take advantage of.

BLITZER: General, thanks very much for coming in.

JOULWAN: My pleasure.

BLITZER: General Joulwan, the former NATO Supreme Allied commander.

All horrors hunting the new Egypt, allegations of abuse and torture post Mubarak revolution. Plus, Elizabeth Taylor. We take a closer look at her life and legend.


BLITZER: The Libyan government is claiming civilians have been casualties in the coalition attacks against the Gadhafi regime, but there doesn't appear to be evidence that's the case. Once again, here's CNN's international correspondent Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIOANAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A drive through Tripoli's streets is a window on a city at war, the roads, quieter than normal. Half the stores closed. Like all trips we take, government officials determine when and where we go. This one to the south of the city, not quite as they planned.

(on camera): About 30 minutes ago the government took us to set off on a trip to find a civilian house they said had been damaged in bombing. They said there was military facility nearby civilians have been wounded. Collateral damage they said.

Well, we have been driving around for the last half an hour, 20 minutes in one neighborhood around what seems to be a heavily guarded walled compound. They still can't find this house and they have been stopping to talk to people along the way.

But they are not talking to the people of the streets here. This is a government convoy. Most likely people around here, even if they knew anything, wouldn't tell government officials.

(voice-over): About 12 hours earlier, not long after Moammar Gadhafi's defiant speech, state TV ran a video it claimed showed civilians being pulled from burning rubble. That's the place we were expecting to be taken. After more waiting at the roadside, not far from a large military installation, there is still no help for the government officials.

(on camera): Well, after another 10 minutes of indecision, we are moving on again. I'm not sure the drivers know where they are going this time, but we're going to find out.

(voice-over): The day before when officials took us to se bomb damage at the harbor, residents flocked there, too, keen to see the strikes state TV doesn't broadcast. Despite the pro-Gadhafi rallies that have become a staple of governmental television, this is a city of apprehension and anxiety.

Regime opponents afraid to speak out, silently hoping for change. Everyone worried a wider war may be coming. Today our opportunity to find out more, all to brief.

(on camera): Well, we have been brought back to the hotel. Government officials couldn't find the house. So here we are back at the hotel where this all began half an hour ago.

(voice-over): Our window closing until the next time. Nic Robertson, CNN, Tripoli, Libya.


BLITZER: As we watch the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East unfold, many people around the world see the revolution in Egypt as a success story.

But the fall of the Mubarak regime and celebrations that followed came with a price. We are getting new information about abuse and alleged torture of protesters even after Mubarak was gone. Here's CNN's Ivan Watson.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A young Egyptian singing a rebel song.

In Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt's revolution, Remy Essam raised his voice in protest during 18 historic days and nights, which brought down a despot and left Egyptians full of hope.

REMY ESSAM, MUSICIAN: You can sing anything you want without being afraid.

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

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

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

Amnesty International says these, quote, "women protesters were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers then forced to submit to virginity tests." One of these women was this 20-year-old hairdresser named Salwa Hosseini.

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

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

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

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

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

Did you ever think you would see this type of behavior on February 12 after Mubarak left?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I'm shocked. I thought that kind of treatment went down with the regime.

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

Umbran was among many concerned citizens at this recent civil society debate on board a boat in the Nile River. What happened to the revolution we began in Tahrir Square, she asks the audience. What happened to the revolution we created? Ivan Watson, CNN, Cairo.


BLITZER: Lots of work in Egypt, lots of work has to be done.

Meanwhile, the world is mourning on icon. Just ahead, we'll have more on the death of Elizabeth Taylor.


BLITZER: Hollywood has lost an icon so has Washington. Our own Lisa Sylvester is here. She's joining us with more on the legendary actress, Elizabeth Taylor who passed away this week.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, a lot of people are mourning. She was actually in her first movie in 1942. She moved around in Hollywood with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and later Michael Jackson.

But she was also at one point a politician's wife. Former Virginia Senator John Warner who served for five terms, credits her for helping him win the first senate race.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): She was a woman with richer and fuller stories than some of her made-up characters. Elizabeth Taylor, the star with the velvet eyes. She was married eight times, twice to the same man. She was even the wife of a senator, John Warner, who remembered her.

JOHN WARNER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: On behalf of myself, my children, and the children of Elizabeth's family, thank you for all the heartfelt condolences that you've expressed for this iconic figure.

SYLVESTER: Throughout her life, she had a profound impact. As an actress, twice winning an Oscar for "Butterfield 8" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?"

And as a starlet with the biggest names in Los Angeles and Washington in her orbit. Here she is at President Ronald Reagan's inaugural gala.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: A friend for all seasons, the chairman of the board, Mr. Frank Sinatra. SYLVESTER: Her celebrity status helped make an early and lasting impact on the fight against HIV and AIDS, lobbying Washington. She helped raise money for the Whitman-Walker clinic in Washington, D.C., which named its medical center after her.

DAVID CHALSANT, WHITMAN WALKER CLINIC: Once those violet eyes looked ought, you were never the same again.

SYLVESTER: David Chalsant met her the day the clinic was dedicated.

CHALSANT: In the community, she is beloved. And I think for the rest of the world, it is going to take a while before people truly understand what we've lost in her passing.

SYLVESTER: Outside the clinic, mourners have brought flowers and a note of thanks to Liz Taylor. She was 79 years old.


SYLVESTER: And in a news released mourning her passing, the Whitman Walker clinic said she was in fact the first Hollywood activist talking about HIV AIDS. This was after the death of her good friend and fellow actor Rock Hudson, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will miss her. Thanks very much for that report.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some hot shots.

In California, flowers rest atop Elizabeth Taylor's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In India, cricket fans watch a sunset before a match in the Cricket World Cup.

In Moscow, the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev contemplates a piece of contemporary art.

And in England, the conservationist inspects a beetle during a nationwide insect survey.

Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.

Enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya is certainly a no laughing matter, but many people seemed to think the name of the operation is. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It dawned on the military to name it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Operation Odyssey Dawn."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Operation Odyssey Dawn's" mission was being called "Operation Odyssey Dawn."

MOOS: And thus began an odyssey of the insults.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Odyssey dawn? That's not a military operation. That's a carnival cruise ship.

MOOS: Well, a cruise ship isn't so bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Odyssey Dawn? You really named a combat operation after a yes album?

MOOS: No. There is not a yes album called "Odyssey Dawn." It is a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Odyssey Dawn, I believe it is a military operation named for a stripper.

MOOS: You probably never met a stripper named Desert Storm. Humanitarian missions tend to have inspiring names like operation restore hope or provide comfort. So what is with Odyssey Dawn?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was absolutely random.

MOOS: U.S. Africa command says they were given three sets of words, beginning with certain letters to choose from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Odyssey dawn does not mean anything really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): No, not at all. You know, there was maybe about 50 words that they looked over. So they chose at random the word odyssey and then someone threw out the idea of maybe dawn being the second word.

MOOS: Some humorists can't stop. Just one odyssey dawn joke. Andy put out tweet after tweet. For instance, Pentagon says they went with "Operation Odyssey Dawn" because their first choice, Spiderman turn off the dark was taken.

And he started taking nominations for better names. Folks suggested titles like "Operation Enduring Instability." Our favorite suggestion from Andy, Operation Liquid Dawn.

You know, Winston Churchill once objected to the word soap suds for an American bombing raid. He thought it was inappropriate for an operation in which men might lose their lives. The name was changed to tidal wave. As for those in the media asking viewers for titles better than odyssey dawn --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. How hard can it be?

MOOS: Andy is suggesting operation dawn go away I'm no good for you or the four seasons might be over Moammar Gadhafi's head. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: That's it for me today. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Every Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend, on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.