Libya conflict: Trapped among Gaddafi loyalists

Journalists sit on the floor of a corridor in the Rixos Hotel Journalists have been prevented from leaving the hotel

About 35 foreign nationals are trapped in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel, one of the areas where forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi are resisting rebel attempts to seize full control of the Libyan capital.

Most of them are foreign journalists including the BBC's Matthew Price who spoke to Evan Davis of the BBC Today programme, on Wednesday morning.

Matthew, just describe what the situation is at the hotel at the moment.

This is day five of what you may be able to call the siege of the Rixos Hotel. It's a desperate situation for about 35 foreign nationals; Brits, Americans, there is a US congressman here, there's an Indian parliamentarian here. The situation deteriorated massively overnight when it became clear that we were unable to leave the hotel of our own free will.

Gunmen were roaming around the corridors, some of them it seemed, trained professional Gaddafi soldiers, snipers were on the roof. We believe there are still snipers on the roof of the hotel and effectively our movements are curtailed....

There's a huge amount of apprehension and nervousness among the journalists stuck here in this hotel. It's desperately hard to see how we get out at this stage.

Is that because there are guards at the door who won't let you out, or is that because you are scared to walk into the streets around the hotel because there are random gunmen who might shoot at you?

... There's a central lobby area and then you walk out into a circular car park, and then it's about 150m (490ft) or so to a gate. There are still guards close to the periphery and around that gate... So, it's impossible it seems for us to get past the guards, I think also impossible for us to know what is in the streets beyond the hotel.

Food, water, electricity?

Start Quote

Matthew Price

Some of the colleagues in the hotel at this moment actually believed that their lives were in direct threat about a week ago and ever since have been keeping their heads down”

End Quote Matthew Price

Running out; drinking water and food certainly running out. The electricity is on in parts of the hotel but in terms of running water in the hotel and the sanitation here: Look, it's not yet at crisis point - and hopefully this will be resolved before it is - but it's getting pretty miserable here.

You can only imagine the sort of tension which the foreigners here, the journalists here, find themselves feeling at the moment.

One of my colleagues, the BBC cameraman here, said that for every bit of good news we seem to get, we were then knocked back by another bit of bad news. There's been moments when we have thought we've been on the verge of getting out of here and then all of a sudden we find out that it's just not possible.

Any idea what the objectives of the guards are? What are they hanging on for? Why aren't they melting away as so many of the other staff did, just trying to disappear to protect their own backs?

Well, some of them have been saying that they are going to defend their country and their city. There's one man who, some here who speak Arabic have been getting along with rather well... who was talking about his three-year-old son back home and the journalists who spoke Arabic were saying to him: "You should put down your weapon and just go home, don't be a part of this. It's all over."

Journalists mark their flak jackets with "TV" initials Food and drinking water are in short supply in the Rixos

And he's saying: "No, no, no; we should fight for our country, we need to fight for our leader." So, you know, call it fanaticism... I suppose the point is there has been four decades of authoritarian rule here in which a large section of the population has believed everything they have been told by the leadership.

You'll remember yesterday I was on the programme having just spoken to Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi's second son - who was smiling broadly... brimming with confidence, full of passion, saying that we are winning the fight for Tripoli.

It's clear that they weren't winning the fight for Tripoli and they haven't won the fight for Tripoli. They have lost it in an almighty fashion over four days of fighting.

Do they know that there? Are you aware of what's going on in the rest of the city, stuck in this hotel?

Well, the televisions are all off, cable and satellite TV has all gone down amid some of the gunfire that has been coming in across the hotel.

Dr KA Paul, left, with Walter Fauntroy on 23 August Preacher Dr KA Paul, left, and ex-US Congressman Walter Fauntroy are among those trapped

Not since late last night, but [there has been] an awful lot of gunfire around the hotel - and mortar fire and [rocket-propelled grenade] fire - and that seems to have knocked out the satellite TV.

So, no pictures of that. We thought that played in our favour, actually, because the foreign media have been accused by Colonel Gaddafi and his spokespeople over the conflict of being spies, of being affiliated with Nato.

Some of the colleagues in the hotel at this moment actually believed that their lives were in direct threat about a week ago and ever since have been keeping their heads down, because they were particularly targeted by members of the regime who believed that their satellite dish was feeding data to Nato.

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