Trapped journalists freed from Tripoli hotel

The journalists, who were growing short of food and water after being confined to the hotel since Sunday, left there around 1 pm (1500 GMT), they reported.

"The crisis is over. The journalists are out," one of them announced on Twitter.
The circumstances of their release were not immediately known, but an AFP reporter said they had moved to the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel in a safer part of the city.

Since early Monday, the journalists had been unable to leave the Rixos, where the regime obliged foreign media to reside.

The vast majority of government soldiers standing guard outside had abandoned their positions by Wednesday, as rebel forces laid claim to vast swathes of Tripoli, including Gaddafi's nearby Bab al-Aziziya compound.

But a handful remained, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Journalists were kept on the first floor, and spent the entire day wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets.

Electricity, temporarily cut, has been restored, but water remained scarce. Mobile phone signals were 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 on Wednesday.

After their release, Price said: "We drove out of the hotel compound into a completely different city than the one we had seen seven days earlier."

Speaking of the guards, he said "it was firmly their belief that if we went outside of the hotel, the rebels would capture us, kill us and rape the women."

The reporters said they were in the dark about what to expect and whether or not rebel forces would meet armed resistance once they attempted to take the Rixos.

"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," Price said.

"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."

As a result, they hung banners outside windows plastered with the words "TV", "Press," or in Arabic: "News, do not shoot."

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