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5.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits US East Coast; Rebels Control Gadhafi Compound; Celebratory Mood in Tripoli; Transitional Government To Move To Tripoli; Dominique Strauss-Kahn Sexual Assault Case Dismissed; A Tour of Gadhafi's Compound; NATO's Role in Libya; New Mindset in Middle East.
Aired August 23, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIBRIL:. Execution a fated and desperate attempt to steal the revolution from this noble people. The picture -- the real picture is that from the 10th of March last month, he, Saif and his father, were talking about there would not be -- there would be nothing more than a few hours before finishing this revolution and going into Benghazi and wipe them out of the face of the earth.
Yesterday, after more than six months from the beginning of this uprising, Saif was tooken -- coming clandestinely through a few meters not -- not inside Tripoli, but inside Bab al-Azizia, the camp of Bab al-Azizia. This is the real picture that the whole world needs to trust. And it is the biggest answer to all the claims is the victory that is -- the real victory that has been finalized by entering Bab al-Azizia as a -- as the symbol of the previous regime.
This revolution began by the Libyans -- the -- the young people of Libya. And we would like to confirm once again to the young people of Libya, the pure young people whose protests our -- our dignity back and who were described as the worst of the -- of epithets -- I would like to confirm to them that -- and reassure them that this is your revolution and it will always be as such. And you will have to continue the march to finish your revolution, not only to finish all the -- to -- to liberate all the pockets and also to be there to participate in the creation of the estab -- and establishing the institutions of the Libyan state and in order to move Libya forward.
I have finished my speech today. I am sure it was somewhat long, but I had to, at this moment, in order to clarify any of the ambiguity that was there.
And I'm ready for your questions, please.
Farso Batud (ph)?
The French news agency, you spoke about a conference that will be held tomorrow, where, firstly, where it will be held?
Secondly, the -- the Council, Mushashar Abdul Aziz (ph) spoke about, extremist Islamic -- Islamist group -- how much control the Transitional Council have over these groups?
The conference I referred to will be held in Doha tomorrow. As far as the groups that Mr. Mustapha (INAUDIBLE) mentioned, he was referring to some infi -- some instances where there was no security is the beginning of the uprising in Tripoli, in addition to some -- some instances where it has been, in Benghazi, some security gaps. So he was -- basically, his concern was more like kind of not to be transferred -- this not to be transformed into a -- an example that is used in order to overshadow the -- the revolution and what happened.
And, therefore, his interference and his warning, it was no more than just an -- to raise the alarm so that people could be aware.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: You've been seeing -- listening to Mahmoud Jibril, who is the chairman of the interim government in Libya holding a press conference there in Doha in Qatar. He said -- and I quote -- "We are all Libyans today." No need for any score-settling. We need to being with the transitional period immediately."
It has been somewhat of an historic day in Libya today.
Chaotic celebration in the Libyan capital earlier, as rebel fighters flooded into the compound of the dictator that they despise. But as the most violent of the Arab Spring uprisings appears close to an end, the central question remains -- where is Moammar Gadhafi?
Is just after 10:00 p.m. in Tripoli, just after 9:00 p.m. in London.
I'm Becky Anderson.
You're watching CNN's continuing covering of the battle for Tripoli.
Well, absolutely extraordinary scenes in Libya today, the symbolic heart of the Gadhafi regime collapsed before the eyes of the world. Rebels stormed the presidential compound in Tripoli after hours of heavy fighting. It didn't take long for them to seize control. Celebratory gunfire ringing out as rebels carted off weapons, knocked over Gadhafi statues and rebels in their victory.
Gadhafi statues and revealed in their victory. It's, no doubt, a huge turning point in this six month revolution.
But rebels still don't have the ultimate prize -- Colonel Gadhafi himself. Rebels say they searched room to room at his compound, but found no trace of him or his family. Well, still unclear this hour, how long the remaining Gadhafi loyalists may put up a fight. The gunfire that you were hearing in this video was celebratory, but our crews had to evacuate the compound Tuesday night because of incoming bullets and tracer fire. Rebels say they were under attack from Gadhafi's forces.
And fighting continues at the airport.
Now, the voice that you hear underneath the video that you've just seen was Sara Sidner, our correspondent. She arrived at the compound shortly after the rebel takeover. I want to get you just some of her reporting from earlier today, before we talked to her live in Tripoli.
Have a listen and a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm inside the compound of Bab al- Azizia. An historic day. The rebels feel like this is a massive victory psychologically and big victory over Gadhafi. They are yelling and screaming that Libya is free. They've been coming, running into this compound. Just over my right shoulder, that is the second gate. We have passed through the first gate.
Let me let -- move just a tiny bit here with my photographer, Sanjay Tel Raga (ph), getting these amazing pictures. That is the east gate there, where rebels were able to blast through. You'll see cars coming through with these massive guns. There's a fire that is now burning in another part of Bab al-Azizia, the Gadhafi compound. They're absolutely going nuts. That gunfire is celebratory gunfire. We've been listening to it all day. It's actually It's actually quite dangerous. We've gotten close enough -- now you're hearing a large blast. What we've been hearing ever since they said that they've taken this compound are gunfire everywhere. And the celebratory gunfire is now becoming extremely dangerous, because it's coming from all parts of this massive compound.
What they have not found are Gadhafi and his family. What they have found is lots and lots of guns.
SIDNER: Again, celebratory gunfire going on just over behind me.
What we are seeing that's different in this hour that we didn't see an hour ago, when we first rolled into this compound, is that there's now smoke coming from another section of the compound over my left shoulder. There was smoke coming from the section when we first drove in and also smoke coming from deep inside of the compound.
This is a day when the rebels feel like they have made sure that the world knows and Libya knows that Moammar Gadhafi no longer has a grip on this country and no longer even rules Tripoli with an iron fist.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: Well, let's go to Sara live now.
She's in Zawiya. And I -- I guess the first question is simply why have you left the compound -- Sara?
SIDNER: We all ran from the compound because suddenly, tracer fire was coming very low and close to us. We could hear bullets literally flying by our heads. We were running out with, also, the rebels.
What we're hearing from the rebels is that while that -- that fire was coming at us, that what was happening is that the Gadhafi forces, the loyalists to Gadhafi forces, were shooting into the compound. The headline here being that Gadhafi's own forces are now targeting Bab al-Azizia, his compound, the place where no one was really allowed but him and his close allies.
So you see how this war has really, really turned, that the rebels are inside there, trying to find him. And yet now, it's become a target of Gadhafi's own people.
ANDERSON: Sara, targeting the compound from where?
Is there any sense of where these loyalist fighters are at this point?
SIDNER: It -- from a neighborhood very close to the compound. What it looks like to us is that they were close enough to hit targets within the compound. But a lot of this gunfire, this -- the small arms fire doesn't travel as far. But if you're -- if you're blasting off mortars and these sorts of things, some of those can travel quite a long way. Some of them can go up to three kilometers. Some can go up to 15 kilometers. So they are in the city, for sure, because we could actually hear the sounds coming from the guns and then the bullets as they were hitting targets.
So it was a bit frightening for -- for everyone that was in that area.
The rebels are saying, look, we have control now of that compound. It wasn't coming from the compound, it was coming from outside, in the neighborhood outside. And so the situation still pretty tense there in the capital, though the rebels clearly seem to have control of much of it -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Are people still fleeing the city?
Can you -- can you give our viewers a sense of just how terrifying the situation is at this point?
SIDNER: I'll tell you this, as we were going out, the checkpoints got a little bit more nervous. They looked into our car. We turned on our light. We said we're -- we're journalists. We're just leaving the area. They have started to block off areas around that compound.
As you're driving through the city, it is an extremely eerie feeling. It's dead quiet if you're away from that compound. We were driving along. Some of the lights were out. It was hard to see. It's hard for them to see us, hard for us to see them. There is concern about, perhaps, snipers or some of Gadhafi's loyalists turning on people.
So there is a sense in the city tonight that while the rebels seem to have control and have made this very big get that it is not completely over. There is still a sense that something can go wrong in some of these neighborhoods.
ANDERSON: Yes. Sara Sidner reporting from just outside the city in Zawiya.
Sara, thank you for that.
It's been a symbolic victory, of course, at this compound. But fighting continues with loyalists and rebels at the airport. It certainly did in the last hour.
Let's get you live there to Arwa Damon for an update on the situation from Tripoli Airport.
She's on the telephone line for us -- Arwa, what's the situation there as we speak?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, just as those scenes were emerging from Bab al-Azizia of people shooting gunfire into the air to celebrate, there was a fairly intense battle raging here with Gadhafi's forces, as they have been for the last seven, eight hours, trying to breach the airport complex.
Now, rebel forces had entered it at around midday modern-day yesterday. And since then, they say they've been coming under heavy attack by Gadhafi's forces, mostly from the eastern part, because to the east, they say, that is the location of two of Gadhafi's military bases. There have also been simultaneous assaults that were launched with Gadhafi forces trying to loop around and attack from the southern end.
So there's been quite an intense barrage of gunfire, of artillery fire, much of it outgoing, but some of it incoming, as well, with some of it landing on key locations in the airport -- the runway, com -- a complex that was being built up and an oil tanker, as well.
No extremely significant damage, but rebel forces tell us that Gadhafi's troops really want to try to retake control of this strategic location, mainly because it also lies on that main highway that runs from the airport straight to Bab al-Azizia compound, Gadhafi's compound. And along the way, to a number of military installations. In fact, despite the fact that there have been all of these reports, all of this joy that the rebels were managing to get into Gadhafi's compound, they still have not secured this north-south route from the airport all the way into Tripoli itself. And the rebels here, as they were hearing word of the celebrations, were saying that they believe that the battle in this area could perhaps be the final stance. But it most certainly has been ongoing for quite some time.
ANDERSON: Yes, a look at the end game, but not just yet.
Arwa Damon reporting for you from the airport.
We've got correspondents all over the place in Libya, as you would expect, here on CNN.
You've heard from Sara Sidner in Zawiya tonight. She's been at the presidential compound. That was the rebels' main focus, of course.
Heavy fighting also taking place around the Rixos Hotel.
CNN's Matthew Chance is one of the journalists who is holed up there.
Here's how he described the situation a short time ago, a situation he called -- well, let me quote you or him -- "pretty frightening."
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of gunfire around the perimeter of the hotel; inside the perimeter of the hotel, as well. Some of the windows have been smashed by bullets in the hotel. All of the journalists that have been basically kept here under supposed government supervision have moved onto the upper floors of the hotel. We've hung banners with "TV" written on them, for "television." We've got white flags. We've all kind of put ourselves in one room without any windows to try and, you know, find a safe place, because the --- the expectation is -- and, remember, we haven't got a very -- we've only got a very narrow perspective on what's going on outside the hotel in the rest of Tripoli here. The information flow has been virtually cut off from us here.
But what we do know is that there is fighting outside the hotel now. We still have the forces, or at least some gunmen loyal to Colonel Gadhafi, in the hotel, in the lobby. And there are exchanges of gunfire with opposition fighters outside and near the hotel and -- and on its -- on its perimeter.
I have to stress that the fighting hasn't come into the lobby itself yet. But the
Expectation is, is that -- is that it may be very shortly. And that's certainly the point of view of all the -- the 35 journalists or so that have been corralled in this hotel for the past four days under this very tight lockdown, and, of
Course, have been here, many of us, for --- for several weeks.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: And you're listening to the voice there of Matthew Chance, filing a report in the past hour or so. And he's in contact on a regular basis with CNN.
And next time, in the hours to come, that he is able to call in, we'll, of course, get him on air for you, as he is there holed up with a number of journalists, international journalists, at the Rixos Hotel.
An historic day in Libya. And the pictures tell it all.
We'll be back with more special coverage from Tripoli, where we are witnessing what we believe is the turning point, or certainly a turning point in this six month civil war.
Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Well, a turning point for rebels fighting for control of Tripoli.
Here's what we know at this point this hour, Tuesday evening, just after 15 minutes past 10 Libyan time.
They've managed to overrun Moammar Gadhafi's compound in the capital. A CNN team has now evacuated from there, as rebels say forces loyal to Gadhafi have been directing fire into the compound. Many international journalists remain at the nearby Rixos Hotel, which is controlled by government forces. While the National Transitional Council calls Tuesday's developments major gains, but says there's still more to be done.
Well, the focus of attention really has been at the Gadhafi compound, until today, a fortified compound, where we believe he and his family have been for some time. Let's give you a better sense of the compound at the heart of this battle for Tripoli. I want to take you just through some of the key points.
Here's one of the entrances to this sprawling complex, which has a -- both an outer and an inner wall. This being the outer wall, this being the inner wall here. And this is one of the entrances, which takes you pretty much to here. This is one of Gadhafi's official residences, where rebels have been combing the rooms for signs of the Libyan leader.
Now, it was the scene in February of a speech by Gadhafi and was also hit by an American air strike in '86, 1986, which killed one of Gadhafi's daughters. A statute of a fist clenching an American jet was later erected as a sign of defiance.
Well, as we move around the compound, we can see also two tents. You can just see them just in there. Gadhafi's visitors -- let me take that off so you can actually see them yourself. But Gadhafi's visitors have often reported being taken to meet the colonel there.
And then we've got a number of other important strategic areas. An area here, the library. We believe a mosque, which reports at least suggest had been taken out at one stage by NATO. And you can see what looks like -- let's move on -- some domed building. And that is exactly what we were looking at there. It was stormed earlier today.
But it's what's underneath this compound which could be most important.
What is underneath there?
A former Gadhafi aide tells CNN that part of the compound is built on top of a bunker four stories underground. Well, the compound also reportedly has a complex system of tunnels. Some believe Gadhafi may have used these to escape to another part of Tripoli.
Nobody knows where Moammar Gadhafi and his family are at this point. Others think that they have left the capital altogether.
Well, let's bring in Shashank Joshi for some perspective now.
He's an associate fellow with the Royal United Services Institute.
Let's start off with just talking about the symbolism of what happened today at this compound. It cannot be overstated, can it?
SHASHANK JOSHI, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: No, absolutely not. Well, you pointed out the statue there, which is a symbol of defiance. It shows a fist crushing an aircraft, symbolizing that which bombed his compound in 1986.
I think this is one of the nerve centers of government. It's really one of those sites that represent the authority of the Gadhafi regime, the state as it stands. And it's ransacking, its -- its -- its virtual destruction is an episode of almost closure on this, which would be complete were it not for the battles that rage outside.
ANDERSON: Yes. And that is important tonight, isn't it?
This has been an historic day. But the -- but the game is not over at this point, certainly. The end game in Libya looks to be here, but it's not over as we speak.
An interesting line from the information minister to CNN tonight. He said that: "Gadhafi has no place to go. He will follow him" -- sorry. "We will follow him and find him."
Where is he tonight?
JOSHI: Well, as you pointed out, the complex is rumored to have an extremely dense and expansive network of tunnels underneath it, which may well have exit points miles outside Tripoli city center itself. I think that that line is overstated. What's significant for the TNC now really isn't to find Moammar Gadhafi. As symbolic as that would be, as cathartic as that would be, they have a much, much greater task, one that is no less difficult, which is persuading those inside Tripoli, inside Western Libya, that they can supplant the regime.
They don't need to find Gadhafi to do that. They need to be focusing their energies on proving to the world they can now impose their authority on Tripoli as soon as possible, that they aren't just a group of eastern, Benghazi based tribal rebels, that they are, in fact, a national authority that has thought very long and hard about how to rule Libya and that it will then unroll its plan, which will be imposed fairly and equitably across those -- even those areas that may not have accepted their rebellion.
ANDERSON: And I want to talk about what we heard from the chair of the interim executive board, Mahmoud Jibril, just earlier on in a news conference that he held in Doha in Qatar.
ANDERSON: But I just want to play you some sound from the information minister, who was on CNN about I don't know, 40, 50 minutes ago. And he talked to my colleague, Michael Holmes, about just where Gadhafi might be and where this fight might shift to.
Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: we have our people, our -- our -- our people in Sirte is our our people. They--- we love him. They know us. And I'm not anticipating that anybody will fight from the people of Sirte. But if some of the Gadhafi loyalists fight us, we will fight back. We are calling to Sirte in a very peaceful way. We would like Sirte to be -- to be -- to be one -- one of ours, to -- to join the -- the other cities.
And if Gadhafi wants to -- to -- to keep Sirte as -- as hg, a hg city in their hands, we'll do every -- everything at all to prevent civilians from getting killed, but we're going to take it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: "We are coming to the birthplace of Gadhafi, that being Sirte, peacefully -- "
ANDERSON: -- says the information minister to us today.
JOSHI: Well, I would treat with extreme skepticism anything the information minister says. That's -- yes, I think the TNC has been, in some ways, unfairly treated. It's been portrayed as a completely chaotic, reckless, unable to organize anything. Well, it did a fairly good job of organizing that remarkable offensive from various directions on Tripoli over the weekend.
However, they have been pathologically, repeatedly over optimistic. They have consistently over promised and under delivered, claiming, for example, that Saif al-Arab Gadhafi was in their custody, something that infuriated so many who thought that was correct, giving hope to many other people.
I would suggest we wait until we see the resistance they encounter at the outskirts of Sirte. Let's see what happens when they enter Sirte. Let's see how they are greeted. Let's see how negotiations progress.
I am wary about his claims that this is just going to go smoothly.
ANDERSON: We're going to have to leave it there.
We're going to take a very short break.
We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us this evening, your expert on the subject on what has been a quite remarkable day in Libya.
We're going to take a very short break here on CNN.
I'm Becky Anderson in London.
Back after this.
ANDERSON: Well, we're focusing squarely on the situation in Tripoli tonight here on CNN. But I do want to bring you a developing story out of the United States.
Buildings shook up and down the East Coast this afternoon, when a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia. The quake was felt in Washington, in New York, in Boston and in other cities. People gathered in the streets as many buildings were evacuated, including the Pentagon and CNN's Washington bureau. Flights suspended at some airports. And for those who felt the ground shake, it was a surreal experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was sitting on the steps and then I was on the phone and the steps were actually moving. And I was like, what's going on?
And then I looked down and the ground was moving. And then I saw my girlfriend on the phone and she said it was a earthquake in DC and that it might be just aftershocks. She said it was just a mini one. But the whole ground was moving. It was scary. And then they just started -- they just started evacuating everybody and it was crazy, like you see it out here, like it was just crazy. The whole steps from like right there down in the crack, everything was just moving and I was just like, it was kind of scary.
So especially after, you know, 9/11 is coming so close. So I think everybody is like, you know, on edge a little bit. So, you know, hopefully that's just what it is and we can go back in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right. Let's get to meteorologist, Jenny Harrison, who's been tracking the earthquake for us over at the World Weather Center -- Jen.
JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Becky. Let's put it in perspective a little bit, shall we?
As you say, a very unusual occurrence for many people in that part of the United States. This is the location. So here we are, 5.8 magnitude. And it was actually -- now it's been confirmed, it's six kilometers in depth. That is the orange you can see there. And that took place at 1:51 p.m. local time.
Now and that red dot, that is actually an aftershock. That occurred about 45 to 50 minutes later, 2.8 magnitude. So a very, very light earthquake. And the actual epicenter there, it's about eight kilometers or five miles from Mineral in Virginia, 61 kilometers away from Richmond in Virginia. And Washington, DC, 135 kilometers.
But it was felt a long way, even felt up into Toronto, Ohio and also down into the south there, Charlotte in North Carolina.
Now, when it comes to earthquakes in this part of the United States, they are generally, of course, we see so many more out on the West Coast that are all those different plates, many, many plates. The nearest plate here is actually way out in the Mid-Atlantic.
But back in 1897 in Virginia, there was a large earthquake. That was a 5.9 magnitude. And there was some considerable damage after that, mostly in the form of brick chimneys coming down, but, also, at the same time, what it did do is the water in the springs became extremely muddy. It also stopped some of the springs and changed the flow of some of the springs.
But it is not completely unusual to have earthquakes in Virginia. On average, about six a year, one of which will be strong enough to be felt. And, in fact, last year, in July the 16th, in 2010 there, there was a 3.6 magnitude, which probably was barely felt, it has to be said. And that is one of the most significant earthquakes, if you like, in recent times.
So to give you an idea, obviously, how unusual it is to perhaps feel an earthquake in this part of the country and also for it to spread so far, it wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s that they actually began to put in the censors, the seismic censors and also the seismographs to actually measure them.
So, back in 1897, the damage or the magnitude was really on assessed following the damage after that. So, as I say, we will keep an eye out for any more aftershocks. There's been one, and that, as I said, Becky, about 50 minutes later, just a 2.8 magnitude.
ANDERSON: Amazing stuff. Jenny, thank you for that. Jenny Harrison at the Weather Center for you.
Well, what happens on the streets of Tripoli tonight will echo around the world. We're going to have much more from what has been an historic day in Libya coming up. You're watching CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. Let's get you an update at just after half past nine London time, half past ten Libyan time, on the breaking news out of there today.
A major symbol of Moammar Gadhafi's control came crashing down earlier this Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Rebels overran the presidential compound in Tripoli, the heart of Gadhafi's regime. Celebratory gunfire rang out and horns blared as opposition fighters reveled in their victory. They're saying things like, and I quote, "This is the end. Libya is now free."
Yet tonight, one big stumbling block remains. Gadhafi is nowhere to be found. Rebels say they searched his compound room by room and came up empty-handed.
East of Tripoli in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the National Transitional Council has been meeting with Turkey's top diplomat. Turkey chairs the Libya contact group and will host an emergency session including US, European, and Arab nations on Thursday.
Let's get more on the situation in Benghazi with CNN's Fred Pleitgen. And before we talk about the TNC, the interim government, Fred, just the atmosphere there tonight, if you will.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an amazing atmosphere, it's absolutely jovial. I don't know if you can hear behind me. There's fireworks that are going off, also some celebratory fire.
Especially the first time I've ever seen celebratory tank fire, the rebels firing their tank guns into the sea. This is, of course, a coastal town.
So, the mood here is one that is very jovial. We were actually just able to speak to one of the senior spokespeople of the Transitional National Council, and they said that they were also overjoyed at the news that they were getting from Tripoli.
And also, they said they were quite surprised that it actually went so quick, for their forces to be able to take over the Bab al-Aziziya compound.
They say they believe that the reason for that might be that Gadhafi might have fled through one of the tunnel systems that's under the Bab al- Aziziya compound.
They believe that he might have fled to the southeastern part of Tripoli where, of course, some of his forces still seem to be holding out. They say that's not sure, but they believe that that could be one of the reasons.
They also say that they believe he has, in fact, not left the country and does not intend to leave the country.
One of the things that they've, in fact, told us is that they believe that at this point in time, with the situation being as it is, Becky, it would be pretty hard to find a country that would actually take him, including the ones that we've been sort of mentioning over the past couple of days. Algeria, Chad, was, of course, mentioned.
They say they believe Gadhafi is probably, at this point, still somewhere in Tripoli, Becky.
ANDERSON: Interesting. All right, let's get some more on the interim government's plans at this point. We heard from Mahmoud Jibril, chair of the interim executive board earlier on, saying "We are all Libyans." He said no need for any score-settling, and he said "we need to begin with the transitional period immediately."
What are the -- what does the Turkish foreign minister have to say today?
PLEITGEN: Well, certainly he is very much onboard with that message. He said at this point in time it was going to be up to the Libyans to decide how they move forward.
And of course, one of the things that's going to happen in the next couple of days is a major meeting of the Libya contact group in Turkey, which is currently, as you said, the chair of that.
PLEITGEN: One of the other interesting things that, of course, Mahmoud Jibril said at that press conference in Qatar is that he's believed that this is now the time to start healing wounds. And that's certainly something that the TNC today has been saying again and again.
They say that they are going to try and move at least part of their operation from here in Benghazi to Tripoli to try and get some sort of effective control and also some sort of political transition to be going as fast as possible.
They say a possible day might be Wednesday. There's other sources within the TNC who say that might be unlikely depending, of course, on the security situation.
But they say the main thing that they have to do right now is get security going in Tripoli especially, make sure the fighting there stops. Disarm a lot of the people who are doing the fighting at this point in time, including some of the people who are on the rebels' side.
And then, of course, there's still some frontier within Libya outside of Tripoli that are still very much active. You're talking about the town of Sirte, where the rebels are saying they believe that could fall very shortly, possibly in a peaceful way.
Then there's other places southeast of Tripoli, as well, so there is still a lot that remains to be done. But the gist that they're telling us is they believe they can do all of this in a peaceful way. Whether or not, of course, that happens also depends on how coherent this rebel force is going to be once it effectively takes over power here in this country, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, and reminding you that Gadhafi left no institutions, no civil society. The TNC, the interim government saying today we have to build everything from scratch. Fred Pleitgen for you in Benghazi, the de facto capital of Libya at this point. Fred, thank you for that.
All right, we'll get -- also following a number of other stories today. Another developing story, the latest on Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Now it appears the former IMF chief is off the hook.
A New York judge has dropped the sexual assault charges against him. CNN's Richard Roth is in New York with more on today's developments. So, is he entirely off the hook at this point?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDNET: The charges have been dismissed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It was a day full of surprises, including a minor earthquake in the New York and northeast area that rocked this courthouse zone in lower Manhattan after a judge dismissed the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn after a request by the prosecution.
Susan Candiotti has been following this case all day long and the last few months. Dominique Strauss-Kahn had a smile on his face when he left the court. He knew what was going to happen. What was his reaction inside and since the decision by the judge?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: No, he walked in with a very serious look on his face. So did his wife. But when the judge announced that he was throwing the whole case out, he broke out in a broad smile. So did his wife.
And as a matter of fact, when his lawyer was asked by the judge, "Do you dispute the motion by the prosecution to throw out the case," and he said, "No, your honor," everyone -- everyone in the courtroom broke out in laughter.
ROTH: Now, since then, he has described the experience as a nightmare. He's thanked his family and friends. He spoke in French outside his rented townhouse, and his lawyers also spoke here. But Dominique Strauss-Kahn, first comment since this whole thing erupted.
CANDIOTTI: That's right. He said that he's -- thanked his supporters for standing behind him, thanked the court for helping him out, was grateful to the prosecutor for the way this whole thing turned out, of course.
And as far as his plans go, I spoke with his lawyer and he said, as far as he knows, he is not going back to France today. He is getting his passport back as early as today, tomorrow at the latest because of the earthquake. And after that, he tries to pick up his life.
But his troubles aren't over. He still has that civil lawsuit to deal with.
ROTH: You mentioned his lawyer. Well, what did happen in that room? 2806, right? Hotel Sofitel? After the judge dismissed the charges, one of his lawyers explained what the Strauss-Kahn side view of what really happened in that hotel room.
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BEN BRAFMAN, DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN'S ATTORNEY: At the very first appearance in this case, all of you who were there know that I said in open court that this was not a forcible encounter. You can engage in inappropriate behavior, perhaps, but that is much different than a crime.
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ROTH: Susan, we heard Ben Brafman, there, say that it wasn't anything forcible, it was consensual. He's been insisting that from the very beginning. Ken Thompson, the attorney for the woman who made these allegations, Nafissatou Diallo, certainly disagrees.
CANDIOTTI: Scathing comments from him about the prosecutors, saying that he has let not only down this woman, who claims that she was raped, Nafi Diallo, but also all women who have been victimized.
And prosecutors said in the end, the problem is, we may never know exactly what happened in that room.
We know that there was sex that happened in the room, but we can't prove that it was consensual, and if we don't believe here because of her credibility issues, then we cannot ask a jury to believe her beyond a reasonable doubt.
ROTH: That's the key part of all of this. They just didn't feel they could get a jury to believe their story if they couldn't believe her.
Ken Thompson, the attorney for Nafissatou Diallo, denounced the prosecution. His plan to get him dismissed really failed. He is still quite upset as they plan to pursue, as Susan said, a civil suit.
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KENNETH THOMPSON, NAFISSATOU DIALLO'S ATTORNEY: By walking away from a seven-count indictment that a sitting grand jury in this courthouse returned against Dominique Strauss-Kahn after reviewing evidence that district attorney Cyrus Vance and his prosecutors presented to them, District Attorney Vance has abandoned an innocent woman and has denied an innocent woman a right to get justice in a rape case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: And in a case full of ups and downs and topsy-turvy events, Susan, when Cyrus Vance, Jr., the district attorney, tried to explain why he made the decision, what happened?
CANDIOTTI: That's when the floor started jumping, started rolling, and we all walked out, including him. We followed him down the staircase eight floors to get outside.
ROTH: The earthquake that rumbled through the northeast. Some have described this case as an earthquake. It seems to be over except for the civil suit. It was the summer stunner here in New York City, a bombshell that rocketed around the world.
For now, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a free man. Back to you, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yes, Richard Roth and Susan Candiotti reporting on the fact that the criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the IMF, of course, officially ended on Tuesday after a judge dismissed all charges at the prosecution's request.
Up next here on CNN, we're going to take a look at the role of NATO in what has been an historic day in Libya and ask whether similar tactics could be used elsewhere in the region. You're watching CNN, stay with us.
ANDERSON: Scenes of chaos and celebration as Libya's rebels storm Moammar Gadhafi's compound in the capital Tripoli. It was a moment that some feared that they would never see.
And once inside, the rebels faced very little resistance. Instead, they looted what they could find, including cars, guns, and ammunition, but their number one target was nowhere to be found. The big question this hour, where is Moammar Gadhafi?
All day, Sara's -- sorry, CNN's Sara Sidner has been on the front lines of the battle for the Libyan leader's compound. I want you to have a listen to what has been some pretty dramatic reporting from her earlier on today.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This would be equivalent to breaking into someone's home, that's how people see it. They feel like they have now busted through this iron-first --
SIDNER: They have broken through the home. That is more celebratory gunfire, but they feel that they have literally broken into --
SIDNER: -- this personal space. And so, they feel respect that if this man really had a clinch, a grasp on the city like he said he did, why can they break into his personal space, get his personal items, get his most personal details of his and his family's lives, and that is why this is psychologically significant.
And it will also help the rebels in any other fight, because you should see the weapons that they are pulling out of these buildings inside the Bab al-Aziziya compound.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, I don't know if Raja is still shooting for you, if she's still with you behind the camera, but could you get her to pan around. I want you to paint a picture of where you are. We're just seeing the wall and the people. Just take us on a little tour, here, will you?
SIDNER: OK. I'm going to try, but I want to warn you --
SIDNER: Some jeeps are raided behind the camera right now. There you see the rebels. We're going to have to be careful here, because they're on a key band, and it breaks up when we move a little bit, so we're going to do the best we can for trying to give you a scene.
That is the eastern -- the first part of the eastern gate. There are large blast holes in that gate. The sun is setting in this area just behind us, so it's starting to become darker.
Over here, you're seeing them -- these are cars that belong to the Gadhafi regime. They are sitting on them --
SIDNER: -- they are blowing off rounds on the top of them. That is obviously a security -- close security for the Gadhafi regime --
SIDNER: I'm going to try not to get hit by any of those rounds. And then if you go just over here, you see the people streaming through the main --
SIDNER: -- the main gate. Now, that's all the way into the compound, so you see --
SIDNER: -- streaming into the main gate of the compound, a lot of smoke coming from the compound.
You see these huge walls. These were supposed to be protected walls. This also gives you --
SIDNER: It gives you a sense of the power of the Gadhafi regime --
SIDNER: This honestly is the nicest part of the city. You're seeing these large, very nicely padded --
SIDNER: All right, I'm going to back up.
SIDNER: Sandid (ph), let's pull back a little bit. Let's pull back just a little bit. Let's just pull back, because we're -- I'm getting hit by some of the shells.
SIDNER: Yes -- it's --
SIDNER: -- it's getting a little bit too loud and you're not going to hear me, and a little bit too much celebrating, but we're trying to get away from the -- I just got hit a little bit with one of the -- one of the shells from one of those guns.
ANDERSON: All right, Sara Sidner reporting earlier from the compound after rebels had overrun what had been a fortified compound in the center of Tripoli, much used, let's face it, by Moammar Gadhafi and his family. Who knows where they are this evening.
Libya's rebels may be celebrating tonight, but it pays to remember that they did not get this far on their own. From the air and from the sea, NATO has helped to clear the path to Tripoli.
Earlier, a spokesperson said its mission so far, at least, remains unchanged.
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ROLAND LAVOIE, COLONEL, NATO SPOKESPERSON: The Tripoli uprising is without a doubt an historical milestone, although not yet the last chapter of the Libyan conflict.
I would like to stress here that regardless of the latest development, our military mission has not changed. Our mission remains to protect the civilian population against the threat of attacks and to enforce the arms embargo as well as the no-fly zone as mandated by the United Nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right, so while NATO's mission in Libya isn't over yet, could its work there increase the calls for military action elsewhere? Shashank Joshi joins me once again in the studio.
There will certainly be leaders in, for example, Syria, Yemen, and right next-door in Algeria tonight who'll be watching what is going on in Libya and saying what next?
SHASHANK JOSHI, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, RUSI: Absolutely. I think for a while, it looked as if the Arab Spring had died a slow death facing opposition in places like Syria, in Yemen, and of course, we forget, in Bahrain, as well.
And I think this is going to give it the real impetus. Not in the sense that we'll suddenly see regime change anywhere else. That's objectively unlikely.
In the sense that those in Yemen, those in Syria who have been looking at this and, in fact, looked at those scenes in Green Square yesterday will have been revitalized and thought, well, we can also do this.
Now, it's worth bearing in mind at maybe some interesting and some uncomfortable lessons for those in other places. And Syria in particular, if they look at Libya, they think, well, how did a small group of rebels in Benghazi end up toppling those in Tripoli.
Well, they armed themselves and they fought. They were a rebellion and an armed group. Those in Syria have so far stayed almost entirely unarmed and have been massacred in force.
If they learn the lesson they need to arm themselves, which would be an understandable lesson from this, if not a perfect -- always a perfectly logical one, we could see a situation escalate there, as well.
ANDERSON: Can you conceive of NATO involvement elsewhere?
JOSHI: No, absolutely not. And that may be -- make me look very silly in a few weeks -- in a few months' time, but really, Syria, which is the most obvious case where you have someone conducting atrocities like those perpetrated by Moammar Gadhafi back in February, is a completely different situation.
It's a much more strategically significant state, so the Arab League and other powers don't want to see complete chaos there. Some countries don't want to see Bashar Assad fall for fear of what may replace him.
Militarily speaking, it's far more powerful than Libya. Its army is loyal. It's cohesive. It's led by Alawites, the ethnic -- the sect of Islam to which the Assad family belongs. It's a much, much more difficult challenge.
And the sad fact is, though, Syria -- the regime, will probably do an extremely good job in clamping down. A much better job than Gadhafi did in Benghazi. So, I see no prospects at all of NATO taking on what would be a much, much bigger fish.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us tonight.
Up next, we're going to look at just how far the Arab Spring really has come. But before we take a break, let's leave you with some of the scenes after Libya's rebels finally took one of their prize targets.
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(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CAR HORNS HONKING)
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ANDERSON: Celebrating what appears to be the death of a 42-year-old dictatorship, Libyan rebels say their country is now free after they overran Moammar Gadhafi's presidential compound in Tripoli.
Opposition leaders say the transition to a new government begins immediately, but it must be said, Moammar Gadhafi certainly hasn't surrendered. Rebels searched his compound room by room earlier today but found no trace of him or his family.
With the situation in Libya changing fast, this photo taken less than a year ago is a symbol of how quickly North Africa has been transformed.
This was the scene at a summit in Sirte earlier on in October 2010 in Libya. Moammar Gadhafi posing with Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, at the time the president of Tunisia, but three months later, he was gone, the first leader to be swept aside in the so-called Arab Spring.
I think I'm onto the right photos here when I say that to his left, president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was badly injured in an assassination attempt in June, has finally returned to the country today after being treated by doctors in Saudi Arabia.
Recognize this man on the right? Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak who fled Cairo in February. And it's a record of a Middle East that has radically changed and is still in transition as the world waits to see what the future holds for Libya.
Let's get some final thoughts, now, from our correspondent in Cairo. Ben Wedeman knows the region extremely well, better than most. He's lived and worked in the Middle East for decades, he's been in and out of Libya over the last six months.
Ben, tonight, your thoughts?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we're seeing the scenes of ecstasy in Libya following the fall of Bab al-Aziziya that we saw in Tahrir Square in February in Egypt and in Tunis back in January on the 14th of January when Ben Ali fled the country.
But what we're also seeing is the hangover after that great party. In Tunisia and in Egypt, there is a certain realization that revolution is not the do-all and end-all. It's really the beginning of an entire process.
In both countries, the economic situation is very difficult, people are beginning to say, well, before, we didn't have our freedom, but at least we had a bit more work. And certainly that seems to be one of the concerns on the minds of many people.
Having said that, Becky, certainly what we've seen since the beginning of this year is a complete change in the mindset of people in this world -- in this part of the world.
They no longer look at the leader as some sort of paternal figure who must be obeyed. People now openly make fun of their rulers, they say that they are just public servants like any other government worker and they shouldn't be obeyed without question. That's a big change.
ANDERSON: What is this -- yes, Ben. What is this new attitude towards their leaders in Syria, Yemen and, for example, in Algeria mean for those countries next?
WEDEMAN: Well, it certainly means that this mentality, this new mentality of defiance, of disrespect for a leader in -- who in most countries is sort of looked upon as a father figure means there's more trouble for those old-style regimes.
Old-style regimes like Algeria, like Syria, dare I say it? Even Saudi Arabia, where they're still following those old patterns of authoritarian rule backed up by secret police, by fairly harsh methods.
People just aren't putting up with it anymore, and I think we'll see, even in those countries where there isn't necessarily a violent uprising, a revolution against the leaders, those wise leaders will realize that it's time to change, it's time to move ahead and put some of those old ways behind them.
ANDERSON: Ben Wedeman with some final thoughts this evening. Parting Shots for you from Cairo and Ben this evening. I'm Becky Anderson. I'm going to leave you with images from what has been an historic day in Tripoli. Thank you for watching. Our coverage continues here on CNN.