Released New York Times Journalists Recount Harrowing Ordeal in Libya

The four New York Times journalists who were missing in Libya for six days before being released Monday have disclosed the details of their captivity, including the physical assault they suffered.

The journalists are Times’s Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, and a reporter and videographer, Stephen Farrell.

The four had been covering fighting near Ajdabiya last Tuesday when their driver inadvertently drove into a checkpoint manned by Pro-Qaddafi forces.

“I heard in Arabic, ‘Shoot them,’ ” Mr. Shadid said. “And we all thought it was over.”

Then another soldier spoke up. “One of the others said: ‘No, they’re American. We can’t shoot them,’ ” Mr. Hicks said.

The first night they spent in the back of a vehicle. The second night they spent in a jail cell with dirty mattresses on the ground. Lynsey Addario also said that over that forty-eight hour period, “there was a lot of groping. Every man who came in contact with us basically felt every inch of my body short of what was under my clothes.” Another captor stroked Addario’s head at one point while repeatedly saying: ‘You’re going to die tonight. You’re going to die tonight.”

On the third day the journalists were transferred to a safe house in Tripoli, “where they said they were treated well.”  But that was just the beginning of three days of frustrating negotiations between the State Department and Libyan officials regarding their release.

Finally, the journalists were were turned over to Turkish diplomats Monday afternoon and driven to the border with Tunisia, in what Times executive editor Bill Keller called “a moment for celebration.”