Journalists freed from Tripoli hotel

2011-08-24 17:20
Tripoli - International journalists were freed from the Rixos Hotel on Wednesday after being held for days by armed men loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

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

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.

An Associated Press reporter who entered the hotel earlier on Wednesday found the journalists wearing helmets and flak jackets, clustered on the second floor, where a guard said they weren't permitted to leave.

When asked if some journalists could accompany the reporter of the hotel, the guard said they were not allowed.

Only two guards armed with AK-47s were visible but they were tense and became highly agitated when other journalists showed up at the gate, including a group in a car decorated with a rebel flag.

The younger guard fired his gun in the area and forced the journalists out at gunpoint. The guard forced the driver onto the ground and threatened to kill him.

The new journalists were eventually taken inside the hotel.

The journalists described running battles in the area for days as well as intermittent electricity.

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, their belongings packed in case of need for a sudden departure.

Save for the two guards, all the hotel employees had fled and the journalists were cooking for themselves. One guard expressed surprise when told most of the city was in rebel hands.

 Parked in front of the hotel was the bus once used by government minders to ferry journalists around the city - on its windshield was a huge poster of Gaddafi - one of the only ones apparently left in the city.

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