By SAM THIELMAN
CNN's Ben Wedeman has won a dangerous race: the net's senior international correspondent is the first American TV journo to file from Libya. That country is enduring the convulsions of a popular revolt against head of state Moammar Gadhafi, whose reign has entered its fifth decade.
"This part of Eastern Libya is clearly under control of the rebel forces that are opposed to Col. Gadhafi," Wedeman told the net's Wolf Blitzer by phone Monday evening. "Clearly, the situation is very unstable. What we saw, is there are a lot of people, mostly Egyptians, that are leaving Libya. At the moment we are told by officials at the Egyptian border that 15,000 Egyptians left Libya returning to Egypt."
Journos have had trouble entering Libya even as they've covered the collapse of governments around that country; the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia have fallen under pressure from demonstrators. Bahrain is currently undergoing similar protests, though that government's reaction has been notably violent.
Gadhafi, however, has responded with greater violence than any of his neighbors, sending in airstrikes against revolutionaries and setting fire to munitions dumps in order to stymie violent response. The decision has taken its toll on military morale: Two Libyan air force colonels defected on Monday, taking their F1 Mirage fighter planes with them.
News of the defections arrived only after the pilots landed their planes in Malta, but with Wedeman in the country, other reporters may not be far behind.