Libya releases Times journalists

By Paul Farhi
Monday, March 21, 2011; 10:36 PM

Four New York Times journalists were released unharmed by the Libyan government on Monday, six days after they were arrested and held, the newspaper said Monday.

The four included Anthony Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his work as a Middle East correspondent for The Washington Post.

The journalists were arrested on Tuesday by forces loyal to embattled Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi as they were covering the conflict with rebels in the eastern portion of Libya.

In addition to Shadid, the detained journalists included photographers Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario and videographer Stephen Farrell. While covering the war in Afghanistan in 2009, Farrell was was captured by the Taliban. He was later rescued by British commandos.

The Times said its employees were released into the custody of Turkish diplomats in Tripoli, Libya's capital. As of this morning, they were in the Turkish embassy , Turkish ambassador Leven Sahin told CNN.

All four journalists have extensive experience in the Middle East. Shadid has reported extensively from Iraq and Afghanistan, among other countries. Hicks has been an embedded journalist in Afghanistan; Addario has covered the Middle East and Africa.

In a statement Monday, the newspaper said: "We are grateful that our journalists have been released, and we are working to reunite them with their families. We have been told they are in good health and are in the process of confirming that. We thank the Turkish, British, and U.S. governments for their assistance in the release. We also appreciate the efforts of those in the Libyan government who helped secure the release this morning."

Almost all western journalists working outside Tripoli entered Libya without visas via the rebel-controlled eastern border with Egypt. The lack of official documents makes them subject to arrest by government forces.

The Times said last week that it lost contact with its staffers on Tuesday. The four were last seen by western colleagues fleeing the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, which was then under shelling by the Libyan military.

The arrest of the reporters drew the attention of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who told ABC's Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Saturday that the reporters would be released.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company