Libya frees three journalists from detention



Libya frees three journalists from detention 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 colleagues.

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 said.

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 Ajdabiya.

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.

PTI