Tag Archives: tripoli

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

Libya could relax ban on foreign journalists on Friday

Libya is reportedly planning to allow some Western journalists to report from the capital, Tripoli, tomorrow, but has warned those who have already entered without proper government accreditation that they face immediate arrest and will be considered al-Qaeda collaborators.

Foreign media have been trying to gain access for the past week to cover the violent protests that have gripped the country, as protestors call for the end of Colonel Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have been relying on user-generated content sent in from around the country to keep on top of the story. The Independent’s Robert Fisk managed to file a report from Tripoli following a brief visit there.

Gaddafi’s son said in an interview with Libyan state television that some journalists would be allowed into the capital Tripoli on Friday. The Washington Post says Libya will do this “so [journalists] can corroborate the government’s claim that the country remains under Gaddafi’s control”.

According to the US state department, Libyan officials say they will grant access to CNN, BBC Arabic and Al-Arabiya.

It said, however, that any reporters who have entered without government permission to cover the violent unrest sweeping the country risked “immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges” and considered al-Qaeda “collaborators”.

The warning to news organisations from the US state department says: “Be advised, entering Libya to report on the events unfolding there is additionally hazardous with the government labeling unauthorized media as terrorist collaborators and claiming they will be arrested if caught.”

The government appears to have lost control of parts of eastern Libya, including the second biggest city Benghazi. As a result, some reporters have managed to get into the country by crossing the border from Egypt.

The Daily Mail says crowds in Benghazi “cheered as international journalists drove through the city – and the only shooting that could be heard was celebratory gunfire”.

CNN’s Ben Wedeman tweeted from the city yesterday: “As first western TV crew to make it to Benghazi we were greeted like liberators, pelted with candy, cheers and thanks. Very humbling.”

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov is there and has been posting updates on Audioboo. ITV News also has a team in the east of the country.