Trapped journalists in Libya freed

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

As many as three dozen correspondent journalists who were trapped inside the Rixos hotel in Tripoli for three days have finally been released unharmed.

Reporters from organisations such as the BBC, Reuters, Sky News, and CNN were freed around 4pm on Wednesday. The group were being held at the complex by armed men loyal to Gaddafi since Sunday night when the rebels stormed Tripoli and violence erupted in the surrounding streets.

CNN correspondent Matthew Chance said the journalists' captivity ended when the guards were told about the changing situation in Tripoli and realized the regime might be over. A guard told the journalists, “Look, we’re not going to stop you from leaving anymore,” Chance reported. Shortly after being freed Chance posted on twitter, "#Rixos crisis ends. All journalists are out! #rixos."

All the reporters who were held in the Rixos hotel were not even aware that the rebels had taken over Tripoli. Armed men loyal to Gaddafi, including snipers surrounded the hotel complex making it impossible for any of the journalists to go downtown and report on the severe conflict which is making a traumatic shift in the six month civil war. The hotel was one of the only places in the city still controlled by Gaddafi's men.

Reportedly, the power was out on Sunday and Monday night and all the journalists could do was light candles and wait. Gunfire and explosions were heard from the direction of Gaddafi's compound by journalists at the hotel. Trucks with machine guns were outside the Rixos and snipers were seen posted behind trees in the area. The journalists moved to the inside of the hotel to avoid being struck by stray bullets flying through glass windows.

Information on the situation was posted on twitter by the journalists who were being held captive. "Very dark, very quiet at the #Rixos some gunshots cracking outside,” tweeted CNN correspondent Matthew Chance during one of the power surges. Later on he then tweeted, "“#Rixos getting hit by stray bullets."

The dozens of journalists were finally transported in Red Crescent cars to another Tripoli hotel, where they hugged friends and colleagues.