Missing journalists apparently held by Libyan army

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 7:33 AM
Missing journalists apparently held by Libyan army

Three Western journalists who went missing in Libya last week were arrested at gunpoint by soldiers loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, Agence France-Presse said Monday.

Citing a driver who was traveling with them, AFP said the journalists ran into a military convoy about 7 miles (12 kilometers) outside the eastern city of Ajdabiya on Saturday. They were ordered to kneel on the side of the road with their hands on their heads, the driver, Mohammed Hamed, told AFP.

The soldiers then set fire to several vehicles _ including the car used by the journalists, who were driven away in a military vehicle.

The journalists are reporter Dave Clark, 38, and photographer Roberto Schmidt, 45, both of whom work for AFP; and Joe Raedle, 45, a photographer for Getty Images.

AFP said they had planned to meet opponents of Gadhafi and interview people fleeing the fighting. Paris-based Clark has been in Libya since March 8 while Schmidt, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya, arrived in Libya on February 28, AFP said.

Gadhafi has kept foreign journalists under tight control, taking them on tours of towns he has seized, and around the capital, Tripoli, under government escort to see squares filled with pro-regime loyalists.

Rebels have given journalists more freedom but moving around the swiftly changing lines of control has been perilous.

Several foreign journalists have been arrested by Libyan authorities during the uprising that began Feb. 15. An Al-Jazeera cameraman and a Libyan journalist have also been killed.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 13 journalists are either missing or in government custody. The missing include four from Al-Jazeera. Six Libyan journalists also are unaccounted for, the group said.

Four New York Times journalists who were held captive in Libya were freed Monday, six days after Gadhafi forces captured them in Ajdabiya during fighting in the area. Aistrikes on Libya, which were launched on Saturday, delayed a release by a day, said Namik Tan, Turkey's ambassador to the United States.

Turkey, acting on a U.S. request, played the pivotal role in getting the journalists freed, Tan said.

The reporters told the newspaper they had been tied up, punched and held for two days before being flown to the capital, Tripoli, on Thursday. There, they were handed over to Libyan defense officials and transferred to a safe house, where they said they were treated well and allowed a brief phone call to make their whereabouts known.