Nightly News | February 23, 2011
>>> good evening. cities and towns are falling in libya , falling from moammar gadhafi 's control, but not the big one, not yet. his headquarters of tripoli being controlled by forces loyal to him in what increasingly looks like a violent civil war . the american effort tonight is this, get u.s. citizens out of there by ferry boat and get out ahead of what's happening. we heard from the president a short time ago.
>> the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. so are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of libya . these actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. this violence must stop.
>> the president at the white house tonight. and while the world watches this fight, gadhafi still has a lot of power in reserve still should he choose to use it, but he's be battling a tide against him and it may be closing in. leading off our coverage once again tonight, our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel , in libya . richard , good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. as you mentioned, people are now trying to leave this country. the state department says that hundreds of americans are safely aboard a ferry for evacuation, but evacuations have been complicated as what started as a pro- democracy movement has descended into war. gadhafi loyalists today were reportedly firing at random. in the libyan capital, now a war zone . thousands of foreigners are struggling to leave tripoli . the airport is crowded, but flights are few. it's unclear how many have been killed in the fighting in libya so far, but mass graves are already being dug. moammar gadhafi is still believed to be in tripoli but he hasn't been seen since his rambling speech last night, but gadhafi 's world is shrinking. there's now another libya , firmly in rebel hands. we drove 300 miles into libya today, a journey through rebel territory. we have now left and are on the highway heading west . most of the cars are going in the opposite direction, toward the egyptian border. clearly people leaving and taking everything with them. the terrain is harsh, mostly scrub and desert, but the highway was new. we were able to move fast. we quickly reached a city on the mediterranean coast . suddenly, we drove into a protest. children were up front. they shouted "free libya " as men behind them cheered "the people want to topple the regime." the demonstrators are all chanting the same thing.
>> reporter: the demonstrators covered our car with a libyan flag , the old one flown before gadhafi took power. the protesters were mostly friendly. they believe media coverage helped overthrow the government in tunisia and egypt, but there were a few hard stares in this city with the reputation for islamic militants . we left the city at dusk, still heading west . in the next town, we were surprised again by demonstrators on top of an armored personnel carrier , a war trophy . protesters say this armored vehicle was being used by gadhafi forces to shoot on the people. now they have taken control of it and are driving it themselves. the rebels are now armed with heavy weapons, to show they're prepared to use them, some fired guns in the air. nearby we were taken to a house to see a half dozen men, prisoners, captured three days ago during a previously unreported major battle. the prisoners, all libyans, surrendered to save their lives. they looked despondent and understandably nervous. they told us they had been fighting alongside foreign mercenaries who were summarily executed by the rebels. rebel-controlled libya is leaderless, chaotic and harsh but also determined to advance to capture tripoli . rebels tell us that the oil fields in eastern libya are now being protected and controlled by army units that defected from gadhafi .
>> richard , we know that some in the libyan military are leaving the job, two of them parachuted off the job today and let their jets crash rather than bomb fellow libyans. but gadhafi still has some power to bring to bear. he could ask or order his navy to strike, his air force . this calls for speculation, but how and when do you see this ending?
>> reporter: when is very difficult to know. but both people -- people on both sides, pro gadhafi and anti- gadhafi think this will end badly. the protesters say the only way for this to end is for gadhafi to be killed. he says he won't leave the country. people close to gadhafi believe he is capable of carrying out a massive kind of attack against civilians in order to try to force them to give up this rebellion.
>> richard engel after another harrowing day of travels across libya . richard , you and your teams continue to stay safe. we