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Journalists freed from Tripoli hotel

The journalists were released after Red Cross officials intervened on Wednesday [AFP]Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have allowed all journalists to leave Tripoli's Rixos hotel, after they were confined there for at least five days.

About 26 journalists were released after representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened on Wednesday.

Associated Press journalists said they had left the Rixos in a car and were moving to another hotel.

Those captured inside the hotel described running battles in the area for days as well as intermittent electricity.

Matthew Price of BBC News said: "I got to one point some time on Monday when I thought: they're going to use this hotel as a barracks for the army for one last stand.

"If they do that, what's going to happen to us? We found out we had no viable escape route. In the middle of all this violence, with the battle flaring up around us which we could hear but not see, it created this sense of paranoia."

The journalists had been held at gunpoint by two nervous Kalashnikov-wielding guards who refused to give up their posts despite rebel victories elsewhere in the city.

They were sleeping huddled on the floor in one wing of the hotel to protect each other for fear of people being attacked in their rooms. They had packed their belongings in case of need for a sudden departure.

The hotel had been a base for pro-Gaddafi forces.

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