Journalists freed from Tripoli hotel

Western journalists freed from Rixos Hotel after being held for days by armed men loyal to Gaddafi.

    Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have allowed all journalists to leave Tripoli's Rixos hotel, after they were confined there for at least five days.

    More than 35 journalists were released after representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened on Wednesday.

    Later on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported that four Italian journalists had been kidnapped near Zawiya.

    The journalists worked for Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera, La Stampa and Avvenire, a spokesperson for the Italian foreign ministry said.

    Confirming the developments at the Rixos hotel, Al Jazeera's Evan Hill said a witness told him the journalists were taken away from the hotel in “four to five” cars.

     Pro-Gaddafi forces held journalists captive for days

    Associated Press journalists said they had left the Rixos in a car and were moving to another hotel.

    Those captured inside the hotel described running battles in the area for days as well as intermittent electricity.

    Matthew Price of BBC News said: "I got to one point some time on Monday when I thought: they're going to use this hotel as a barracks for the army for one last stand.

    "If they do that, what's going to happen to us? We found out we had no viable escape route. In the middle of all this violence, with the battle flaring up around us which we could hear but not see, it created this sense of paranoia."

    The journalists had been held at gunpoint by two nervous Kalashnikov-wielding guards who refused to give up their posts despite rebel victories elsewhere in the city.

    They were sleeping huddled on the floor in one wing of the hotel to protect each other for fear of people being attacked in their rooms. They had packed their belongings in case of need for a sudden departure.

    The hotel had been a base for pro-Gaddafi forces.

    Italian Journalists kidnapped

    The four Italian journalists have been kidnapped by suspected Gaddafi loyalists in Zawiya.

    According to the Italian Foreign ministr, the four journalists were abducted on a stretch of highway between Zawiya, a town 50 kilometers west of Tripoli.

    The kidnapped include two reporters from Milan daily Corriere della Sera, one from Turin's La Stampa and one from Avvenire, the daily of the Italian Catholic bishops Conference.

    Corriere della Sera said on its website that the four Italian journalists were stopped by a group of civilians, who then "handed them over to military men faithful to Gaddafi who brought them to a private house,'' and that first contact from the Avvenire journalist came hours later.

    The Italian news agency ANSA quoted the Italian consul, Guido De Sanctis, in Benghazi, saying that the four journalists are being held in an apartment in Tripoli between Bab al-Aziziya and the Rixos Hotel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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