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Libyans Show ‘Best of Humanity’ in Aiding Journalists’ Escape From Hotel

August 24, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Dozens of journalists were finally allowed to leave the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli Wednesday after being trapped for several days under the control of forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. International Television News' John Ray, who was among the journalists being held captive, discusses the journalists' ordeal and his escape.
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TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: Among the journalists at the hotel was ITN’s John Ray. He described his experience earlier today.

JOHN RAY, International Television News: We arrived at the Rixos Hotel very early on Monday morning, having been to Green Square to witness the rebels taking their place over.

The Rixos Hotel, frankly, was the only place we could think of to stay and is the place that we thought had been liberated. It was bum information. When we woke up the next day, we found that we were trapped, along with the rest of the press corps. And we all, all of us faced a very, very difficult dilemma.

We were effectively being guarded, held hostage by — if you like, by gunmen of the regime. Some of them, I’m sure, genuinely thought they were there to look after us, but we faced a difficult choice. Did we hang on in, hoping the rebels would storm the place with a minimum of fuss, or did we need to get out of there in the fear that nobody would come to rescue us or indeed that the Libyan army would move in?

They were supposedly camping out in the woods behind us. We in the ITN team took the decision to try to make an escape. And we made that escape this morning. We basically went out of a fire door at the back, ran across the open ground, hunkered down by a wall, slipped out having pushed the back gate over, open, and thumbed down a lift at the side of the road.

The man who stopped and picked us up, I have to praise him for his bravery and humanity. He took us about 100 meters down the road, but was telling us in Arabic it really wasn’t safe. And to prove his point, at the side of the road, there was a car that obviously had been fired upon. And by the side of the car, I’m sorry to say, there was a body of a man who had been shot, I assume by the army.

Our driver turned around, took us to a neighborhood very close to the Rixos Hotel. And those people took us in, they fed us, they gave us water. They were incredibly, incredibly kind. They represented the best of, not just Libya, but the best of humanity. And it was due to them eventually that we were able to organize a lift to get back to this hotel and this position of relative safety, despite the gunfire that you’re hearing around me.