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LIBYA: American journalist escapes Libyan jail, describes ordeal

August 26, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Vandyke An American journalist who went missing in Libya in March has surfaced -- after he apparently escaped from the notorious Abu Salim prison outside Tripoli, according to his interview with the BBC.

Matthew VanDyke, 32, told the BBC he had been being held in solitary confinement.

"I was in Brega and I believe we were ambushed," VanDyke told the BBC's Ros Atkins. "I was hit in the head and I woke up in a room to the sounds of a man being tortured in the room above me."

He said he was taken from there to Tripoli, where he was shuffled between two prisons -- all the while in solitary confinement.

"They told me nothing about what I was accused of, whether I would ever be released, they just locked me in a room and gave me food, kept me alive, and no real interaction with anybody," he said.

He said he was held that way for about six months.

"I thought they would execute me," he said.

He said he tried to figure out where he was and how long he would be held by eavesdropping on his guards and fellow prisoners and by "reading the sob stories of other prisoners that they had scribbled on the wall."

"Nobody had been kept as long as me, which started to make me worry," he said.

Suddenly one day, the prison was bombed. Prisoners started to escape, including rebel fighters.

"They came to my cell and they broke open the lock," VanDyke said, freeing him.

The men brought him to a compound, then another where VanDyke said he was staying at the time of the BBC interview.

"I decided I would leave when Kadafi was gone, and that's what I'm still going to do," he said. "When Kadafi is gone, that's when I'll leave Libya. When Libya is free."


LIBYA: Hundreds of bodies found at abandoned Tripoli hospital

LIBYA: Rebels seize Kadafi intelligence headquarters

LIBYA: First rebel government news conference Tripoli [video]

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Matthew VanDyke, 31, had been in Libya for about a week when he disappeared in March. This week, he reported that he had been held for months in a Libyan prison in the capital and escaped due to a bombing and the help of fellow prisoners. Credit: Sharon VanDyke / Associated Press