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LIBYA: 40 journalists held at gunpoint in Tripoli hotel are freed

August 24, 2011 |  8:25 am

Rixos
The 40 journalists who were being held by forces loyal to Moammar Kadafi at a Tripoli hotel in recent days were freed Wednesday, according to CNN reporter Matthew Chance.

"We've been in fear for the past few days with guards waving Kalashnikov rifles, accusing us of being spies," he said as gunshots sounded in the background. "Every time someone has tried to leave, there have been gunshots."

Chance said no one was injured during the release.

Photos: Battle for Kadafi's compound

"They didn't put up any resistance to us," he said of the guards. "Arabic-speaking journalists among us managed to convince them that the world had changed outside, that much of Tripoli was held by the NTC, the rebels."

On Tuesday, Chance said, one of the guards drew close to him and said, "I suppose you're happy now, aren't you, now that Libyans are killing Libyans."

But Wednesday a guard chucked his rifle into another room "and the entire situation changed," Chance reported. The International Red Cross provided a vehicle, and they used that and another car to leave for an undisclosed location, he said.

"We've been up all night for the past five nights trying to go through every scenario to negotiate our release," Chance said. "We're immensely relieved all of us. We're driving. ... The streets are pretty deserted. There's not a lot of people, but there are a lot of [rebel] checkpoints."

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Foreign journalists in protective gear at the Rixos hotel in Libya, where they were confined by pro-Kadafi forces before being freed Wednesday. Credit: Imed Lamloum/AFP /Getty Images

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