Journalists trapped in hotel as Gaddafi HQ falls

The vast majority of pro-regime soldiers standing guard outside the Rixos hotel had abandoned their positions, however, after rebel forces laid claim to vast swathes of Tripoli. A handful remained, dressed in civilian clothes and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Journalists staying at the Rixos, where the Libyan regime obliged foreign media to reside, are housed on the first floor of the building, and spend the entire day wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets.

Electricity, temporarily cut, has been restored, but water remains scarce. Mobile phone signals are poor.

"It's getting pretty miserable here and you can only imagine the sort of tension which the foreigners here, the journalists here, find themselves feeling at the moment," BBC correspondent Matthew Price told BBC radio today.

"The hotel is surrounded by Gaddafi loyalists who are preventing the journalists from leaving," the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in a statement, demanding that the journalists not be harmed.

It said the reporters are "prisoners of a dying regime that refuses to lay down its arms."
The reporters say they are in the dark about what to expect in the coming days, and whether or not rebel forces will meet armed resistance once they attempt to take the Rixos.
As a result, they have hung banners outside windows plastered with the words "TV", "Press," or in Arabic: "News, do not shoot."

This morning, some of the journalists attempted to venture a few metres from the hotel, located in the centre of Tripoli, before gunfire erupted nearby and armed men ordered them to return to the Rixos.

In addition to the gunmen standing guard, reporters at the Rixos have also told of their fears of sniper fire.

"Gunmen were roaming around the corridors," Price said. "We believe there are still snipers on the roof of the hotel and effectively our movements are curtailed."

Yesterday, the hotel was hit by stray bullets fired when Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizyah headquarters fell to rebel forces. The two sites are separated by a wooded area.
Sporadic gunfire has also been heard inside the hotel complex itself -- in recent days, gunmen have used the hotel to refuel and as a watchtower.

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