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Libya frees three journalists from detention

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 11:21

Tripoli: Three journalists including two AFP
employees held by Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi`s forces since the weekend were released in Tripoli early Wednesday.

Their release follows that of four New York Times
reporters detained last week by government forces, but four
journalists with Al-Jazeera remain in detention. At least two
journalists have been killed in the conflict.

Reporter Dave Clark and photographer Roberto Schmidt from
AFP and Getty photographer Joe Raedle arrived at the Rixos
hotel in downtown Tripoli, where they were met by one of their

AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said there was "deep
rejoicing" at the release of the trio, "who have regained the
liberty to live their lives and practise their profession".

"This liberation is the fruit of the mobilisation of the
entire AFP editorial staff and the agency as a whole," he

Paris-based Clark, 38, a former Baghdad bureau chief, has
been in Libya since March 8. Schmidt, 45, who normally works
out of AFP`s Nairobi bureau, arrived in the country on
February 28. Raedle, a US citizen, is also 45.

They had vanished at the weekend after driving from
Tobruk to report on fighting between Kadhafi forces and
eastern rebels. Their driver said Monday that they were seized
by soldiers loyal to Kadhafi.

Just prior to their release, a Kadhafi spokesman said the
veteran leader had received an appeal from the AFP chairman, "and the leader basically asked the Libyan state and government to release these journalists".
"They were treated very well indeed. They were checked
for the health and the well-being, and they were brought to
Tripoli," spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said.

Hoog thanked the Libyan government for its "promptness,
following my urgent request, in freeing the journalists whose
sole mission was to report on the situation currently playing
out in Libya".

Getty Images also issued a statement expressing "delight"
at the release of the trio.
Driver Mohammed Hamed told AFP that on Saturday morning
he took Briton Clark, Schmidt, who is of Colombian-German
nationality, and Raedle from Tobruk towards the town of

A few dozen kilometres (miles) from Ajdabiya they
encountered a convoy of military jeeps and transport vehicles.
They turned around, but were intercepted by the soldiers
who forcibly detained them, the driver said.

Four soldiers forced them from their vehicle at gunpoint
as Clark said "Sahafa, sahafa" -- Arabic for journalist.


First Published: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 11:21

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