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Battle for Tripoli; Steve Job Resigns; Preparing for the Worst

Aired August 24, 2011 - 23:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Isha Sesay here with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Steve Jobs is bowing out as CEO of Apple. In his resignation letter he said he could no longer meet his duties and expectations as CEO. Jobs, you'll remember, survived cancer, has undergone a liver transplant, and has been on medical leave since January. He'll stay on as Apple's chairman and be succeeded as CEO by former chief operating officer Tim Cook

Another monument in Washington may have reopened after yesterday's East Coast quake. However, the Washington Monument itself will stay closed until engineers repair cracks at the top and triple check the rest of it.

Those are the headlines. Coming up at the top of the hour, CNN International's coverage of the battle for Libya and the hunt for Gadhafi.

Welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world.

Three major stories we're following for you this hour.

Government troops and rebels battle it out in a number of locations in Tripoli. And now late word that one of Gadhafi's sons is trying to broker a ceasefire.

Meantime, a bombshell in the business world to tell you about. Steve Jobs steps aside as Apple's CEO. We'll hear who's in line to replace the long-time leader.

And, Hurricane Irene batters the Dominican Republic, is over the Bahamas and is heading towards the United States.

Full coverage of all these stories is straight ahead.


SESAY: Battles, bounty and an offer to broker a ceasefire. We begin this hour with developments from Libya. Fighting continues to rage in the capital as rebels take on pockets of resistance. Gunfire can be heard in the streets.


SESAY: Clearly, intense scenes playing out there. Among the hot spots: the Tripoli airport, which has seen some of the most intense fighting. Rebels are in control there, but they're now fighting Gadhafi loyalists just east of it.

Well, one thing we're not seeing, any sign of this man, Moammar Gadhafi. But a Benghazi businessman is hoping to change that. He's offered a $2.5 million bounty.

And now, one of Gadhafi's sons is looking to negotiate a ceasefire to save Tripoli from what he says will end up being a sea of blood. Well, Saadi Gadhafi has offered to work with U.S. and NATO officials to reach that ceasefire. He laid out the details in an e-mail exchange with our own senior international correspondent Nic Robertson who spoke about that earlier with Anderson Cooper.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I sent him e- mails asking him, can you talk? I want to talk to you. And I was kind of surprised hearing that he'd been captured to get an answer back.

And he said, look, I want to negotiate a ceasefire in Tripoli, a city of 2 million people. He said, I don't want this to turn into Somalia. I don't want there to be seas of blood here in the coming days. And I want to help in these negotiations.

He said he has reached out to Washington, has reached out to NATO. And this is -- and he wants help in doing, this Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "ANDERSON COOPER 360": And now, he's just sent you another e-mail. What does that say?

ROBERTSON: Well, there have been reports this afternoon that in Tripoli, he was about to be captured. Rebel forces had gone into one of the big hotels in the center of the city, the Corinthia, to try to hunt him down. I sent a message saying, so what happened? And his reply was, they didn't get here in time. Or they didn't get there in time.

I don't know if he's telling me straight up that he was there and they just missed him or is just playing around. But, clearly, this is a guy the rebels said they had, they're still looking for him. He's still on the loose. And in a way he's cocking his nose at them, if you will.

But he's not clear if he's trying to negotiate on what terms, he won't tell me the terms. And it doesn't seem to me at least that he can negotiate from a position of strength. He's on the run. But he says government forces still loyal and there's a potential for more bloodshed.

COOPER: How do you know or are you confident that this is in fact from him that, these e-mails are in fact from him?

ROBERTSON: When I was in Tripoli earlier this year, I was there for about six weeks, the end of February, the beginning of the NATO bombing through March and early April. And over that period, I got to meet and talk with Saadi Gadhafi on a number of occasions. That's how I came to have his e-mail address.

The response that I had, the language that he's used, to me it seems very clearly that it's him. That perhaps the spelling errors, the grammatical use of language, the sentence structure -- those things are exactly the same way that he would speak. Of course, it could be somebody very clever mimicking him. But it was me that reached out to him on his e-mail address.


SESAY: Well, let's go back to the situation at the airport because fighting has intensified there. The rebels say loyalists forces are now firing from nearby villages. And there's growing speculation they may be protecting a high-profile figure, possibly Moammar Gadhafi.

CNN is the only network with a presence at the airport. Our own Arwa Damon is there and has the latest.



ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is right now Gadhafi's forces are assaulting the airport from two locations?

IBRAHIM MADANI, REBEL COMMANDER: Two locations, that's right. He's trying to get the airport back, because he has a lot of weapons here.

DAMON (voice-over): Weapons like Grad rockets, found buried, Ibrahim Madani tells us. Then he takes us into the underground containers that were filled with weapons and ammunition -- now in rebel hands.

The attacks come from multiple directions. The battle isn't just for control of the airport. Rebels believe the ferocity of the attacks is directly linked to Gadhafi's whereabouts.

Mukhtar al-Akhdar, a retired former officer in Gadhafi's army is the senior rebel commander who led the initial assault on the airport complex.

MUKHTAR AL-AKHDAR, SENIOR REBEL COMMANDER (through translator): This is my analysis as a military man. There has been intense firing from all directions for the last three days. There has been a focus on this airport complex more than other locations, even in Tripoli. This is evidence that Gadhafi is in the area and wants to escape from Tripoli through here.

DAMON: Despite their recent gains in the capital, rebels still don't control important chunks of highways and territory around here.

The incoming mortars are pounding the area, throwing up dirt among the grounded airlines. Rebels say Gadhafi's forces are using nearby villages as cover for their launching sites. (on camera): The rebels are firing back but they're very worried they say about civilian casualties. So, they're trying to make sure that their rounds land before the first row of houses. NATO, they say, is also unable to target these positions for the very same reason.

(voice-over): By nightfall, the fighting only intensified, fuelling the rebels' frustration and fears that while they are pinned down in the battle here, their main target, Gadhafi, remains elusive.

Arwa Damon, CNN, at the Tripoli International Airport.


SESAY: Now, the nightmare is over for a group of journalists being held for days at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli.

Tears flows as the crews were reunited with coworkers as you clearly see there -- emotional times. The hotel remained under the control of Gadhafi loyalists while much of Tripoli fell to the rebels.

Our own Matthew Chance was among that group of people. He said that they were released when the rebels finally realized that the capital city had been taken.

A bit earlier, Anderson Cooper asked Matthew about the absolute lowest point in the ordeal.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is difficult, Anderson, to say which was the worst time. I think it was probably -- because there were so many of them. We were lying on our bellies at one point, you know, hoping the shells that were coming into the compound weren't going to hit us. There were snipers firing into the hotel at various points during the fight, basically we were kept there against our will.

But, yes, I think the worst time was when we realized quite early on in the situation we found ourselves in that, you know, we'd lost control of the situation, that all these scenarios started playing out in our heads.

We started getting paranoid that we could be used as human shields if Gadhafi's remnants of his army decided to use the hotel to make their last stand. Maybe we were going to be taken prisoner properly. Maybe we were going to be executed. We didn't know. All these things were ticking through our heads.

And it's when we realized that this was -- this could end really badly for us. When that sank into us, I think that was the sort of turning point and it was early on in this situation. And from then we were kind of really focused on working out solutions, working out answers to various scenarios, what we would do if such and such happened.

And, you know, it was a very traumatic time throughout that period. But it's difficult to pinpoint one exact moment which was the worst. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: We're so relieved that they're all safe.

Stay with us because in about 20 minutes we're going to take you behind the scenes with Matthew and his producer to see the ordeal inside that hotel, the Rixos Hotel, and what it felt like the moment they were released from captivity. It is a dramatic story -- only going to see it here on CNN, the world's news leader.

Now, even though Matthew and the others are free, four Italian journalists in Libya were kidnapped on Wednesday. The Italian foreign ministry says they were abducted on the road between Zawiya and Tripoli, apparently by pro Gadhafi forces. The ministry says they are well but isn't providing any of the details.

And a little bit later on in the program, this American freelance journalist has been held by Libyan rebels at a Tripoli prison for the last six months. Now, he is free, but he remains there in the city. Matthew von Dyke's mother spoke to him earlier today. She's going to join us to talk to us about his story so stay with us for that.

Some other major news to tell you about coming out of the business world in the last few hours, and it could have a huge impact on world markets. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resigned from the company he started in his parents' garage in 1976.

As for the reason, well, Jobs as we all know has been on medical leave since January. Let's get some perspective on this from tech journalist Xeni Jardin who joins us live from Los Angeles.

Xeni, great to have you with us.

First of all, we should make clear Steve Jobs will remain as chairman of the board. So let me ask you, what does his resignation as CEO mean for Apple?

XENI JARDIN, TECH CULTURE JOURNALIST: Well, you know, Steve Jobs is the soul of Apple for many of us. He's the sort of really powerful personality. When you go to an Apple launch event, it's not unlike going to see the greatest preacher in the world. There's always that one more thing at the very end.

And recently that one more thing was the iPad. Before that, it was the iPhone. And it's so often products that really do change the way that we think about technology.

SESAY: And to that point of how he has become the face, the soul as it were of Apple, it's said that man that is going to replace him, Tim Cook, the chief operating officer, previously, he's not a products guy.

JARDIN: Well, you know, he's been the CEO for seven years. This is a man who is tried and true. Apple wouldn't be elevating him to the role of CEO if he weren't up for the job. But I would say he has the hardest job in America tomorrow. He's the guy who has to replace Steve Jobs. And many would characterize sort of his personality, his character, his approach to work as quiet, head down, committed.

But there's something more sober about how he goes about things than Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs is really very charismatic leader. And I feel like this is an important kind of end of an era for Apple. It's the beginning of a new chapter. A lot of people have a lot of questions about what's next.

SESAY: The statement put out about Steve Jobs' resignation doesn't mention his health. Are you getting any information on that? Do you have any insight into how he's doing and the timing of all of this?

JARDIN: Right. Well, you know, I'm reading the same resignation letter that everyone else is. I don't have inside information that others don't. But considering the fact that this is a man who worked through a very serious challenges with pancreatic cancer for the last number of years, went through a liver transplant, the fact that we're now today seeing a sign off letter that says "I can no longer my duties and expectations as CEO," you got to believe Apple is in this man's blood. This is his life. This is his identity. He is truly driven beyond what most mortals can imagine. And you have to believe that the situation for him must be serious if he is stepping aside now.

SESAY: No, indeed. Given the relationship, the synchronicity between Jobs and his company, how do you see the future? You've already said it's a new chapter.

JARDIN: I think we're likely to see some market turmoil in the coming days. There is some uncertainty about exactly what will be ahead. And I would expect the stock price dropped on the first day here -- we'll probably see some more of that in the coming days.

But this company has had a succession plan around for awhile. This is not a surprise for anyone inside the company or anybody who's been following Apple for some time. And I think that there's a lot more ahead that will be of interest.

I hope they keep that same spirit of inspiration. I can't imagine any other tech CEO in the world who can get people as passionate about a product that they know nothing about yet as Steve Jobs.

SESAY: Yes, you're absolutely right. Many people around the world hoping for exactly the same thing.

Xeni Jardin joining us from L.A. -- appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, as Xeni said, the resignation sent Apple stock tumbling. Trading was halted briefly as the news broke. When it was resumed, shares fell more than 5 percent. At last check, Apple stock was down $19 to $357 in after the-hours trading.

Now, we want to put that in some perspective for you. The stock briefly hit $404 a share in July.

All right. Let's take a look at how the Asian markets are responding.

Japan's Nikkei, see where that is right now -- looking at the board. And it is up almost 1.5 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng also in positive territory following its mark, 1.4 percent up. South Korea's Kospi in positive territory as well -- well over 1.5 percent. And Australia's S&P ASX 200 is up just over 1 percent.

Well, up next, hurricane Irene threatens the U.S. East Coast. And a category 3, it is expected to become even stronger.

And damage from a rare earthquake forces a world-renowned American monument to be closed.

Stay with us.


SESAY: Weather forecasters say hurricane Irene is now a category 3, could become even more powerful, as it moves toward the East Coast of the United States. The storm has already lashed the Dominican Republic and one woman drowned in Puerto Rico as he tried to cross the bridge over a flooded creek. Right now, Irene is over the Bahamas.

Residents of the capital of Nassau fearing the absolute worst. They're getting ready. They're boarding up shops and homes, everything they can in preparation.

NASA images show the monster storm from space. Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the U.S. Eastern Seaboard from North Carolina, all the way into New England. The major storm could threaten major cities like Washington, New York, and Boston.

OK. Well, let's get a sense of how dangerous this storm is and where it is all heading.

Jen Delgado joins us now from CNN's weather center.

Jen, what are you seeing?

JEN DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, Isha, I want to point out to you -- you showed that image of the satellite from NASA to show you just how big that storm is, we're talking hurricane-force winds extending 110 kilometers from center of circulation. That's roughly 70 miles. So yes, it is a beast of a storm and a dangerous storm -- again, a category 3.

As I step out of the way for you, you can see on that satellite imagery, go back over to our graphic, it's spinning just right on top of the central Bahamas. That's the motion that's going to continue as we go through the overnight hours. You can still see -- we've lost a little bit of the eye wall, the missed the eye wall.

But over the last several hours we haven't seen a change in strength of the winds. Right now, the wind at 194 kilometers per hour, that works out to about 120 miles per hour. And if you want to put that in the Atlantic, because it is in the Atlantic, that is a category 3.

So, certainly this is a strong storm, major hurricane, and it looks like it could continue to gain strength as we head 24 hours out. Notice, it's going to be right on top of the northern Bahamas, winds at 213. Then moving back into open water on Friday, and then the wind weaken just a bit.

But it looks like even still getting very close to Cape Hatteras and making landfall in the outer banks as we head to Saturday. And again still a very strong storm.

We want to go to some video for you just to show you what it looks like through parts of Nassau. People are boarding up there. And that's rightfully so. With the wind being so strong and certainly picking up for tomorrow possibly into category 4 -- this is going to cause some structural damage in addition to the heavy rainfall that's going to be working into the Bahamas. And then as we go into the weekend we're talking into Sunday affecting the northeast and even into New England.

As I take you back over to our graphic here, this is going to give you a better way to visualize hurricane Irene. As we go through this path, it looks like it's going to move just to the east of Nassau, then it's going to make that sharp turn up towards the north. It's going to dodge Florida.

But again area that we're really watching, the Carolinas. And right now, the models are in very good agreement. You notice it's taking it over towards the north, and up towards parts of New England. Again, we'll be watching that as we go through tonight. But right now we're going to take a look with a shot coming out of NASA.

And just a short while, we'll have a report from Jim Spellman. Let's go right over that live shot right now.


JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There in Nassau, Bahamas, the winds have really picked up with lashing rains coming out of the Caribbean and just pounding the island. We're still hours before the heart of this hurricane even arrives here at Nassau, Bahamas.

So far, most of the tourists on the island have already departed. The cruise ships have pulled out, headed out to sea to avoid this hurricane. And everybody else that could get out on an airplane left before the airport closed earlier today.

For Bahamians, there's less options. This island is only about 20 miles, 40 kilometers or so across. There's just no place for people to go to try to outrun this storm.

So, their options are few. They're putting up storm shutters and plywood to try to protect their homes and just try to ride this out as these punishing winds and lashing rains hit the island.

Jim Spellman, CNN, Nassau, Bahamas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DELGADO: And welcome back. That report was filed earlier on you.

You can see the winds starting to pick up. Now, the other story we're worried about with the Bahamas and what we talked about with the Turks and Caicos, unlike areas including Haiti and Dominican Republic, this area very flat. So the problem is, we're going to be dealing with heavy rainfall. That's going to cause flooding.

But we're also talking about that storm surge and that's going to add to the flooding as well. This graphic I'm showing, anywhere in red, we're talking about 25 to 50 centimeters of rainfall. That's anywhere between about seven to 16 inches in some locations -- Isha.

SESAY: We are closely following this. This is pretty scary stuff. Jen, thank you.

Well, residents along the U.S. coast are preparing for hurricane Irene just days -- just days -- after being hit by a rare earthquake. The magnitude 5.8 quake damaged an iconic national structure in the U.S. Capitol. Cracks appeared at the top of the Washington Monument. The popular tourist destination will remain closed until that damage is repaired.

A path of destruction is left behind by battles in the Libyan city of Brega. We look at the efforts by firefighters to contain a major blaze in a major oil town.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The efforts of the firefighters are futile so far.

"The forces of Gadhafi were here for about three months," the fire chief says. "And we were afraid that everything would be destroyed. But then little by little the revolutionaries advanced and the Gadhafi forces were ousted."

But before retreating, Gadhafi's troops fired tank rounds into the facility, hitting four of the giant storage tanks.

(on camera): The firefighters say they've been fighting this blaze for the past six days. They tell us they don't know how much longer they're going to have to be there before the flames are out. And they also say they don't know how extensive the damage is and how long it will take for the Brega oil refinery to go back online.

(voice-over): With Moammar Gadhafi on the run, his troops' resolve appears to be crumbling on all fronts, including here in the east. Rebels gave us this video they filmed of their forces in the battle for Brega, firing rockets from a multiple launcher. And a rebel commander says the opposition continues to push the pro-Gadhafi forces back. "Thank God we were able to defeat Gadhafi's force here in Brega," he says. "Now we are in Ras Lanuf and we will continue on until they are totally defeated."

The Transitional National Council says it's negotiating with Moammar Gadhafi's own tribe in his stronghold of Sirte to ensure their surrender without bloodshed. As the end of the six-month civil war in Libya appears to be imminent, the opposition says too much blood has been shed, too much infrastructure destroyed -- like the refinery in Brega, an important economic lifeline for a country in need of rebuilding.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Brega, Libya.


SESAY: Well, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is leading the effort to help Libya after Moammar Gadhafi. He announced he'll host an international conference to focus on rebuilding the country after meeting with executive chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council. They talked about what kind of trial may be in store for the long-time Libyan leader if he's captured.


MAHMOUD JIBRIL, LIBYAN NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL COUNCIL (through translator): Gadhafi, if he's already been captured, then we can decide whether he'll be tried in Libya or outside Libya. And if he gets captured, then he will have a fair trial. Where this trial will take place, whether that is in Libya or outside Libya, this is obviously the Libyan law which would take precedence where he should be tried.


SESAY: Now, several countries at the United Nations are supporting an effort to quickly provide money for the transitional council. As early as Thursday, the U.N. Security Council could vote to override the sanctions committee and release up to $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets. And more money could be on the way.

Take a look at this with me. Let's look at what Libya has.

It's estimated anywhere from $100 billion to $150 billion, even as much as $168 billion of Libyan government assets are held overseas. The U.S. holds more than$30 billion, 10 percent of that is cash. The rest is non-liquid assets including property. The U.K. holds $19 billion. They've already given $149 million of that to the NTC.

The Dutch government is holding almost $4.5 billion and $144 million of that has been give tonight World Health Organization. It plans to use the funds to distribute medical supplies to the Libyan people.

And the Swiss government holds about $823 million and plans to hand over all of that money to the Libyan rebels.

It's estimated banks across Europe hold a total of $50 billion of Libyan assets.

After five days of being held by Gadhafi loyalists, a group of journalists got some very good news.


CHANCE: They basically came over to us and they said, look, we're not going to stop you from leaving anymore. All we had to do then was arrange some kind of transport.


SESAY: Our Matthew Chance there shows more about being held captive as Libya changed outside the hotel walls.


SESAY: To our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, welcome back to WORLD REPORT and our continuing coverage of the crisis in Libya.

I'm Isha Sesay at CNN Center.

Gunfire echoes on the streets of Tripoli in another day of fighting. Here's the very latest for you. Rebels are battling pockets of resistance in the capital as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi keep up their fight. One of the hot spots to tell you about: Tripoli's airport. Rebels are in control there, but they're fighting Gadhafi loyalists just east of it.

And while there's still no sign of Moammar Gadhafi, one of his sons, Saadi, is looking to negotiate a ceasefire, saying he wants to save Tripoli from becoming, quote, "a sea of blood".

Well, as rebels took over Tripoli, they also freed some of the prisoners being held there. Among them an American freelance journalist, Matthew VanDyke, went missing in March while he was in the country. And since then the freelance journalist has been in the country's infamous Abu Salim prison in solitary confinement, we're told. On Wednesday, he escaped.

We're please today say we have on the phone Matthew's mother, Sharon. She joins us now on the line from Baltimore.

Sharon, first of all, this must be a tremendously happy day for your family as you get this long-awaited news. But first of all, tell our viewers, what was Matthew doing in Libya to begin with?

SHARON VANDYKE, MOTHER OF FREED JOURNALIST: He went to Libya to support his Libyan friends. He had spent two months in Libya in 2008 and had just really -- he loved the country and the people. And as he heard from them when the events in the Middle East started to unfold, he felt that he needed to go to Benghazi and spend time with his friends, not in the fighting part of the cause but in developing a democracy and just do think tank-type activities with them, talk about what life is like in America, about again the democracy and the rights that we have and that they could have. And also, he is a freelance journalist. That was important to him to take his camera and his external hard drives and his computer and do some writing. He's been writing a book about his journeys through the Middle East since 2007.

SESAY: So as you describe it, he went for peaceful purposes. How did he end up in prison?

VANDYKE: He went on the 13th of March -- or 12th of March, I guess, the town of Brega with some friends. He had never been Brega to take some pictures and see the area. And from what we understand, Gadhafi's forces at that time came into Brega and captured the town, the next day on the 13th when he was there.

SESAY: And at that point, from what I read, the last time you spoke to him was March 12th.

VANDYKE: That's correct.

SESAY: Talk to me about --

VANDYKE: His girlfriend --

SESAY: Go ahead.

VANDYKE: His girlfriend Lauren Fisher spoke with him in the morning that day and I spoke with him that afternoon. Then on March the 13th, neither one of us could reach him via his cell phone. But he sent GPS coordinates that day to us that put him in the town of Brega. That was the last time we had any contact with him until today.

SESAY: I can only imagine a frantic time, a stressful time for your entire family. And then today happens. You get the phone call.


SESAY: Talk to me about everything that happened today.

VANDYKE: He called Lauren on the phone and talked with her and gave her a number for me to contact him. And she talked to him for about 10en minutes and then she called me, because he borrowed a cell phone from a Libyan. So we knew we couldn't talk long. But we'd each one have an opportunity to speak with him. She called me, and I then immediately called him.

And first thing he said was, "Hi, mom," which was the one thing -- two words that I've been waiting to hear for six months. And he sounded fine, sounded just like himself. He said he was -- he was in good health. But he has spent the entire time in solitary confinement -- and as he said, sitting in a cell staring at a wall for almost six months.

SESAY: And his release, was he able to give you any detail about how that came about?

VANDYKE: He actually wasn't released, they escaped from the prison. Prisoners came to his cell and knocked off something, some type of tool or rock or something the lock on the cell and actually took him with them. So he walked out of the prison. He said there were hundreds of prisoners leaving. And he walked with some of these men out of the prison.

And after a period of time, and I don't know how long they walked, but during that time there was a Libyan, a wealthy Libyan, who invited them into his compound and gave them food. And that's where he called us from.

SESAY: I know like any mother all you want right now is to see your son, to have him safely home. What are the plans of getting him back here to the United States?

VANDYKE: Well, I've been working along with our State Department and Congressman Ruppersberger's office. So, you know, it's in the works for him to come home. We're waiting for Matthew to be able to either reach us via Internet or get a cell phone so I can give him more information. Lauren will have the same information.

So, one of us will be in contact with him and so he can make arrangements with State Department people or people representing our government in Tripoli so he can come home.

SESAY: Now, if there's any chance he could possibly be watching us and this conversation, what is it you'd like to say to him?

VANDYKE: To Matthew?


VANDYKE: Well, I'm so glad that he's better than just OK because we'd all kind of thought what he was going through, certainly didn't know if he was I guess treated fairly other than not having anyone to talk to or any interaction with anyone over those months. And he needs to come home and spend time with Lauren. It's been a rough road for her, too.

SESAY: Yes. It's been a rough road.

VANDYKE: We're just glad to know that he's safe and we know he'll be home. But neither one of us ever thought that he was a casualty of the war. We both always believed that he was somewhere and OK and would get back to the States.

SESAY: Well, Sharon VanDyke joining us there on the line from Baltimore. We are all so very happy for your very good news, you and your entire family, that Matthew is indeed safe. Thank you for joining us.

And we're going to continue to check in with you as to when he makes it home safely. Thank you.

VANDYKE: Certainly. Thank you so much.

SESAY: Well, the other huge development out of Tripoli we want to tell you about -- 35 international journalists finally able to get out of the Rixos Hotel where they've been held as prisoners for days not knowing what was going to happen to them. Their armed guards, pro- Gadhafi troops.

Our Matthew Chance has been telling the world about the ordeal from the beginning using means like Twitter and Skype. We want you to hear the story of the last few days in Matthew's own words.


CHANCE: Actually, there is still one gunman downstairs and he's got a green bandanna on. And he's one of the people who's been very sensitive about being filmed. You can hear him shouting downstairs. I'm going to tip my camera. You might be able to see him in the corner there. He's got two (INAUDIBLE) in fact.

And he's staying downstairs so I think we're going to be fine to continue to talk. But it's not a good situation. It's very tense indeed.

Over the past couple of half hour or so, we've seen that the majority of the minders who have been heavily armed have left the hotel. And it's been replaced by a sense of insecurity in the hotel. There are a few gunmen still wandering around with green bandannas on and green flags attached to them. But at the moment, we really don't know what's going to happen next.

Hala, I think I'm going to have to leave it there. I get back to you as soon as I can with an update of the situation.


CHANCE: Such a courageous gun fight outside, the battle around the compound of Colonel Gadhafi. Some of the bullets have been flying into the hotel. There's also been sort of left here by the Gadhafi loyalists, the government of the country, in a sense that all of the minders that were here and the government officials that were here have departed sometime yesterday as the rebels began their advance into Tripoli.

And what they left behind instead of just letting us go into the streets to do whatever we want, they left behind some Gadhafi loyalists gunmen in the lobby of the hotel, some of whom are very aggressive. And so, we've all kind of like corralled ourselves onto the upper floors.

We're not getting any information at all about what's going on outside.


CHANCE: After Saif Gadhafi made his appearance at the Rixos Hotel, the whole situation seems to have changed. Instead of gunfire, outside it's got very calm. You can see I talked to you on Skype, the electricity is on in the hotel. A few hours ago we were all sitting in the searing heat as there were no air conditioners. There was no running water. It was pitch black in this hotel. There's no lights outside, no lights inside.

And now, you know, the generators have gone back on again. It seems that at least in this area, this part of Tripoli around the Rixos Hotel and the Gadhafi compound, the government have really succeed in defending this pocket and have really re-established their control.


CHANCE: We're still very much in the same kind of grim situation which is that we're in a hotel, we're in the top floor of the hotel. We've corralled ourselves into that top floor where Gadhafi loyalists are still very much in control of this hotel and the immediate perimeter around it.


CHANCE: We're bracing ourselves given developments in the other parts of Tripoli particularly around the compound of Colonel Gadhafi, some kind of confrontation here at the Rixos Hotel. So far, that hasn't happened. I can tell you we're all kind of hoping that this crisis -- and we've been here for under these conditions for about five days now, unable to leave, sort of corralled on the top floor of the hotel about 35 journalists together, not knowing what's happening. We've been in that situation for about five days now.


CHANCE: We are not being allowed to leave. We want to leave. We feel we're in danger. The gun fights taking place outside as journalists are kept at the hotel without negotiating.

We're obviously still in a very fragile position. And we're very concerned about how this is going to come to an end.


CHANCE: We have now left the compound of the Rixos Hotel. All of the 36 journalists that were kept inside essentially against their will in what we all considered all along being a hostage crisis have now been -- a hostage situation, rather, have now been allowed to go out. It's been a very complicated, a very frightening, a very -- emotional roller coaster of the past five days.

And we're now driving out of the Rixos, we're driving through the deserted streets, I have to say, of Tripoli to our freedom essentially. It's been an absolutely -- it's been an absolute nightmare.


SESAY: We are all so pleased that Matthew and all the other journalists are OK and are free now.

That gave you some sense, Matthew giving you his perspective of what was going on during the ordeal.

Now we want to give you a look at the journalists' final minutes of captivity there in the hotel and their dramatic rush to freedom.


CHANCE: There's been some developments. We were hoping to negotiate an end to this crisis, this terrible experience we've all been through.

We've managed to speak to the guys who have been in charge here. People have been given orders by the Gadhafi regime to, you know, not let the journalists leave. And they've been carrying those orders out, even though the whole world for them has changed inside this hotel. Hopefully, now they're going to get in those cars and they're going to take us --

CHRYON: The team says goodbye to other journalists leaving the Rixos.

CHANCE: Bye, BBC. Good luck.


CHANCE: Good luck.


CHANCE: Bye, guys. Good luck.

CHYRON: All of the journalists leave the Rixos in ICRC cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, do you a away to call Jane (ph)?

CHANCE: Hello? Hello?

CHYRON: Matthew does his first interview with CNN after leaving the hotel.

CHANCE (via telephone): Breaking news situation here. We have now left the compound of the Rixos Hotel. All of the 36 journalists that were kept inside essentially against their will in what we all considered all along to be a hostage crisis, have now been a -- a hostage situation, rather, have now been allowed to go out.

It's been a very complicated, a very frightening, a very, you know, emotional roller coaster of the past five days.

I can tell you we're sitting in vehicles of the ICRC, the International Committee of the Red Cross. We managed to negotiate the Red Cross to get in through the checkpoints of the Gadhafi loyalists, perhaps the only remaining Gadhafi loyalist checkpoint in Tripoli if reports we've heard inside the hotel are to be believed.

And we've got all the journalists into these four cars plus a civilian car, and we're now driving out of the Rixos. We're driving through the deserted streets, I have to say, of Tripoli to our freedom essentially. It's been an absolutely -- it's been an absolute nightmare for all of us, you know, the journalists who have been as a result of this emotional release the fact that we've got out of the hotel are crying, emotions are run very high.

We went through a rebel checkpoint. The rebel checkpoint all along was just about 150 meters down the road from the Rixos Hotel. They hadn't approached the hotel, presumably because they didn't want a big gun fight to take place where all those international journalists have been holed up over the course of the past five days.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: Matthew, over the last few days when we were talking you mentioned these pro-Gadhafi elements in the hotel around the perimeter of the hotel. Did they put up any kind of resistance?

CHANCE: Hala, well, they put up resistance to the rebels. They didn't let them come in. They didn't put up any resistance to us, because in the end obviously, originally, they were alone -- they've been stopping us from going out. But as I mentioned earlier, we managed some of the Arabic-speaking journalists amongst our colleagues managed to negotiate with them to convince them that, you know, world had changed outside, the rest of Tripoli is largely held now of course as we know by the TNC.

The rebels when they finally realized this, it's not clear whether it's because they didn't have the information or they just couldn't, after 42 years nearly of Gadhafi's rule, comprehend the idea of a Libya without him. But when they finally understood it and took it in and embraced it. I mean, at one point, a Kalashnikov assault rifle was thrown across the room into the kitchen, into the kitchens and the restaurant area. And the whole situation changed. All those guards there, the two guards were in the lobby of the hotel, Gadhafi loyalists, right up until the end -- right up until beyond end you could say.


SESAY: Well, as you've seen as they left the hotel the team wept with relief. Coming up, you'll hear the rest of the story as their journey out of captivity continues.


SESAY: Before the break, we followed Matthew Chance and Producer Jomana Karadsheh as they sped away from the Rixos Hotel. Along with dozens of other journalists, they were held captive there for five long days.

We pick up the story as they head to a safe spot in Tripoli.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's not talking on camera. She's not doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the CNN camera. Oh, hi!

CHYRON: Matthew continues to do phone interviews. CHANCE: All this while we were absolutely terrified that mood was going to change and we were going to be shot. To get to the nub of it -- I mean, that's what we were worried about. We were worried about being shot.

But happily, we weren't shot. We weren't even injured. We were absolutely fine.

CHYRON: Producer Jomana gives her first phone interview.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): One of the most difficult things for me was speaking the language. You know, speaking Arabic, I was involved in most of the negotiations between those guys who were holding us there and also trying to talk to people on the outside, trying to secure a safe passage for us at least or getting us out like we did today. It was a team effort.

We had an amazing group of journalists and, you know, and an experience like this, we did all really bond together and work as a team and make sure that we all got out of there together. It's amazing, and walking out of the hotel, Hala, I didn't really know what was going to be out there. And I came out to a new Libya.

I was actually shocked, the new Tripoli. I didn't see any green flags, I saw the rebel flags. I saw children waving the flags. I saw like a happy Tripoli. It was a very, very different one than the one I saw about a week ago before we were taken hostage.

CHANCE: Jomana was great. She was great. She was doing for all of us, for all the journalists that were there.

You know, Jomana was like -- was crucial. She was doing much of the negotiation with the Gadhafi gunmen downstairs in the lobby. She was taking it on her shoulders to do it. It was remarkable. She's one amazing producer, to produce us out of this horrific crisis.

I don't think we'd all be here now. I literally think she was that good. I don't think we'd be here now if it weren't for her.


CHYRON: Matthew arrives at the live shot location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you? Good to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Matthew's here now. Yes.



CHYRON: Matthew does his first on-camera live interview since leaving the Rixos.

CHANCE: This is green square where we came a number of times during our stay at the Rixos before it all went so ugly. We were brought here by government minders. It was a very empty place, not very many people around, people not very happy to talk to us, sort of avoiding the cameras and things like that.

And what I will say is that coming out here for the first time in a week since these dramatic developments, since the whole world has changed for the people of this country. I mean, look at the difference. People are celebrating. They're firing weapons in the air. The floor is filled with the casings of Kalashnikov rounds.

People seem very, very happy. They seem that, you know, something is lifted from them in this city. And, you know, I feel pretty similar to that myself.


SESAY: Just incredible.

Well, if you want to read more about Matthew and Jomana 's story, all you have to do is click onto our Web site. The address for you

Our international viewers can find out more about this story and others from our teams right across Libya on "BACK STORY". Michael Holmes will bring that to you in just under an hour from now.

Well, still ahead we'll bring you up-to-date on the very latest developments in Libya.

And the latest on hurricane Irene, the powerful storm may become even stronger as it heads for the U.S. East Coast.

Stay with us.


SESAY: There's been little let up to the fighting in parts of Tripoli as rebels battle pockets of resistance in some areas like the airport. Loyalist forces are putting up a strong fight.

Meantime, there is still no sign of that man, Moammar Gadhafi. A Benghazi businessman is now offering a $2.5 million bounty for him

And stay with CNN for the latest on the situation out in Libya. If you're away from your TV, you can always log onto as well. There's great information for you there including the latest reports from our correspondents there on the ground. Check it out at

Let's get another update on the path of hurricane Irene. Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado joins us now from CNN's weather center.

Jen, what's the latest?

DELGADO: Hi, Isha.

Right now, it's battering the Bahamas right now -- parts of central and southeastern Bahamas. You can see on the satellite imagery a very wide storm. We're talking hurricane force winds extend 110 kilometers from the center of circulation.

We are getting a report now of structural damage and reportedly several settlements of the Bahamas, the roofs were taken off and areas where homes were destroyed. It's going to take until tomorrow, of course, sunlight until we can see some of that damage that has happened across parts of Bahamas. But here's why, because of the winds right now, 194 kilometers. And as I said right now it's in the southern and central part of the Bahamas. But by tomorrow, it's going to be in the northern region. And the winds are going to be going up to 213 kilometers.

So, if we're getting reports now of damage and regions down towards the south, of course, we're going to hear that tomorrow as well as those winds come up to major category strength. You can see 213. And then it moves into the open water. And then as we go into Saturday, weather conditions are really going to deteriorate for parts of the Carolinas. It looks like it's going to be brushing or getting very close to the outer banks as we go through Saturday evening.

But also want to point out to you -- now, it looks like the winds are going to be roughly 167 kilometers. That would be a category 2. Earlier, they were saying it was a major category 3 that could be passing close to that region.

And then as we go through Saturday, into Sunday, we're talking parts of the Northeast, as well as New England being affected by hurricane Irene. And again, this is a monster storm and everybody needs to have some type of safety plan or preparations in place.

Just to give you an idea, it looks like hurricane Irene the center of circulation is going to be moving towards the east of Nassau as we go through tomorrow. And then, notice, it's not going to have a direct impact on Florida, but look how big those outer bands. The storm will really grow as we go through tomorrow.

So, areas right along the coastline, we're going to be talking about rough surf, in addition to the heavy rainfall, as well as the strong winds across parts of the Bahamas as well as the Southeast.

Isha, back to you.

SESAY: Jen, thank you. A busy time for you.

Thank you for joining us. I'm Isha Sesay. You're watching CNN, the world news leader. We'll be right back.