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Luke Harding: ‘We’re sort of used to the gunfire, but this was clearly directed towards us’

Around 35 journalists were relieved yesterday to have been allowed to leave the Rixos Hotel in central Tripoli, where they had been trapped for five days amid heavy fighting between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists.

Many of them moved from the Rixos to the Corinthia Hotel, further away from the fighting around Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound. But a report this afternoon from Guardian correspondent Luke Harding suggests that, despite Gaddafi having been ousted, they are still in some danger from loyalists. Talking to his colleague Mathew Weaver over Skype from the Corinthia, Harding said the hotel was “sprayed” with heavy ammunition fire for five to 10 minutes.

I was just downstairs in the lobby having lunch … and I went up to the second floor and there was a surge of journalists in from the terrace and there was gunfire. This was where we’d all been setting up our satellite dishes and people had been doing live braodcasts. There’s been a fantastic amount of gunfire over the last few days so we’re sort of used to it but this was clearly directed towards us which was why everyone came charging in.

It’s hard to know who, but it seems there were loyalists in the high rise blocks to our left that opened fire on the hotel.

There isn’t much security here, there are a couple of guards in the hotel who panicked and fired inside, which sent everyone scarpering. I just took the lift up to the 13th floor and locked myself in the room. The firing went on for about five to 10 minutes.

I just went to see my neighbour Kim Sengupta from the Independent. He is two [floors] down from me, and he has four bullet holes in the wall and one on the ceiling. This is not Kalashnikov fire – this is a very well-built, modern hotel – this is clearly something much heavier and someone has just sprayed the hotel with it. As far as I know, nobody has been hurt.

This is indicative of just how insecure Tripoli is.

See more on the Guardian’s Middle East liveblog at this link.

Follow Luke Harding on Twitter: @lukeharding1968