Five Day Tripoli Hostage Crisis Ends

Added by on August 24, 2011

Rixos Hotel, Tripoli / File photo

Armed soldiers loyal to Colonel Gadhafi released an imprisoned group of journalists, that were captured last week, along with other civilians from Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel on Wednesday shortly after 3:45 pm local time (15:45 UTC/GMT). There was no power, water or fresh food in the hotel.

The soldiers were reportedly ordered by Gadhafi’s son to “protect the journalists” within the safety of the hotel. The soldiers are reported to have been certain that Gadhafi would win and take over the city eventually.

Mathew Price of the BBC, who was one of the prisoners, said that they were treated with civility by their captors. However, the situation turned serious overnight when everyone realized there were guards in the lobby and corridors and snipers posted on the roof. Doubts were confirmed when some people were prevented from leaving the premises. A journalist who tried to leave had an AK47 pointed at his chest, said Price.

Prince added that a guard asked the journalists, who were viewed by Gadhafi loyalists as pro-rebel, if they were happy now that the loyalists were being slaughtered in the streets of Tripoli. That’s when the captives began fearing the worst, thinking that they were going to be used as human shields or executed by a hardliner loyalist.

When news of Ghadafi loyalists losing control of the city started to filter in, some guards became anxious and wanted to know if the fight was over. A couple of Arabic journalists talked them into laying down their arms and releasing the captives.

Finally, the guards agreed and allowed the journalists and others to leave in small groups. The journalists were told that the negotiations for the release of the prisoners was mediated by the Red Cross officials, but when they found no vehicles at the hotel to transport them, they returned to the hotel. At that point, the hostage crisis seemed to be back to square one, but the soldiers were no longer interested in guarding them.

Just hours before the guards released the prisoners; a group of four journalists arrived at the hotel gates and were ordered out of the car by the guards and ushered into the hotel where they joined the others. The situation began to worsen even while Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said at a press conference in London that he was monitoring the situation “hour by hour.”

The journalists were piled into a Red Cross vehicle marked ‘TV’ across a white banner to prevent it from being attacked, as there was a lot of gunfire in the area. Minutes later, they were among rebel forces and their nightmare ended, said David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times.