Libya unrest: Journalists' Rixos Hotel ordeal described

Matthew Price: "We feared Gaddafi forces might use us as human shields"

About 35 foreign journalists have managed to leave the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli after being trapped there for days as the battle for the capital raged around them. The BBC's Matthew Price was among the group.

When we got driven out, we discovered that we had basically been confined to one tiny part of Tripoli, with two gunmen who believed that they were still fighting on behalf of Col Muammar Gaddafi.

They believed to the end that the battle for Tripoli was still going - even though the whole world had seen this city had fallen - and they thought that Col Gaddafi was still going to win that battle.

It was firmly their belief that if we went outside the hotel, the rebels would capture us, kill us and rape the women.

All the journalists decided to spend the nights and days together in one corridor, as we felt it was safer there. We then had a room that we could go into if things really turned nasty.

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We drove out of the hotel compound into a completely different city to the one that we had last seen seven days earlier”

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We were lying there a couple of nights ago with our flak jackets on and our cameraman said "you get good news, bad news, good news, bad news" - and it just kept going on like that. We thought, maybe this is going to be the moment when we suddenly manage to leave - and then it wasn't.

Anxious days

When the town of Zawiya got taken by the rebels we then knew that we had no way out. That road west out of Tripoli was the lifeline for the capital but also the route in and out for journalists.

Then on Saturday night when the uprising started in Tripoli and this city began to fall, we slowly but surely realised that there was no route out of this government-run hotel.

During Sunday we saw the government minders and their families leaving, and by Monday morning we woke up and we had young gunmen walking round the hotel and essentially in charge.

We feared what they would do. Were they protecting us, did they see us as enemies of Col Gaddafi? There has been a lot said here by Col Gaddafi's side about the foreign media taking sides in this war, so they were pretty anxious days.

Some of the hotel staff are not Libyans and they were just as scared as we were, wanting to get out and away - and they were allowed to get away.

I think that those close to the regime - the civil servants and the powers that be - knew that Tripoli was in trouble but believed that there would be a way back.

For most of the people in that hotel, Col Gaddafi had been in power for either all their lives or the vast majority of their lives. They were signed up believers.

Like the two guards who were disarmed today by one of the journalists in the group, they firmly believed that it was impossible for Col Gaddafi to fall.

When we left, the whole team was astonished.

We drove out of the hotel compound into a completely different city to the one that we had last seen seven days earlier.

The tanks are here, the damage is here, but the people on the streets are different.

These are people who are so opposed to a regime that lasted 42 years that they were prepared to risk their lives to overthrow it.

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