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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Foreign reporters flee from 'hotel trap' in Tripoli - CNN

RIA Novosti

20:57 24/08/2011 WASHINGTON, August 24 (RIA Novsoti) - All foreign journalists have left a hotel in Tripoli after being trapped in the building for several days, CNN television reported on Wednesday.

The release of the reporters was arranged by Red Cross representatives. The journalists were whisked away from the Rixos Hotel in downtown Tripoli in cars carrying the Red Cross insignia.

Al Arabiya television said earlier that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi loyalists were keeping around 35 journalists inside the hotel since late Tuesday as the fighting for control of the capital between Gaddafi's soldiers and rebels intensified.

According to Al Arabiya, the journalists had been largely deprived of water and electricity, and food was in short supply. They had to wear bullet-proof vests and helmets, as gunfire periodically erupted in the neighborhood.

Rebels claimed on Wednesday they were trying to release the reporters, who had been issued passes by the International Organization for Migration for a possible departure from the Libyan capital by sea.

However, a direct assault on the hotel guarded by a handful of soldiers wearing civilian clothes and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenade launchers could have put the lives of the reporters in serious danger.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday called on Libya's National Transitional Council and opposition forces to ensure the protection of all foreign nationals during the final days of the Gaddafi regime and transition period.

Rebels seized control of much of Tripoli this week, but Colonel Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown. According to a pro-Gaddafi television channel, the 69-year-old promised "martyrdom or victory" in his fight against the rebels and NATO forces.

The National Transitional Council on Wednesday offered amnesty, as well as a $1.3-million reward for anyone who captures or kills Gaddafi.

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