The Libyan government is expected to release four New York Times journalists on Friday who've been missing for three days in the war-torn country.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi, told ABC's Christiane Amanpour yesterday that the Times journalists "entered the country illegally" and specifically mentioned the army arresting a female journalist--presumably, Times photographer Lynsey Addario. (He didn't name others in the Times team, which includes reporters Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell and photographer Tyler Hicks).
Gadhafi claimed that the Libyan people like Americans because of their resistance to a no-fly zone over the country, as opposed to the Europeans and Arabs. (While the United States may have seemed initially resistant to such a move, the government voted in support of last night's U.N. authorization of a no-fly zone).
"And for the first time in modern history, they like the Americans and are happy with America," the younger Gadhafi said. "And that's why, like today, people said when the army captured the New York Times correspondent in the city of [unintelligible] because she entered the city illegally, but when they found out she was American they said it's OK. You're good people. We'll free you."
Although Gadhafi didn't mention details about freeing the journalists, the Times reports that Libyan officials told the State Department that it would happen on Friday. The journalists last spoke to the Times on Tuesday: MSNBC.com has what's believed to be the last photo taken of Hicks (right in glasses) and Addario (far left), prior to their capture, from March 11.
Reuters' Paul de Bendern said on Twitter shortly after the news broke on Friday that he's "eagerly eagerly awaiting my beloved and brave wife #Lynsey #Addario coming home, counting the hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds."
Times executive editor Bill Keller told The Cutline on Friday that he isn't ready to discuss the expected release of his four colleagues. "We're holding off on any comment until we're confident they are free and safe," Keller said.
During the rebellion against Gadhafi's four-decade rule, Libyan forces have beaten and detained journalists who have strayed from government-sanctioned areas and reporting trips in an effort to spin and control information getting out of the country.
(Photo of Libyan soldiers loyal to Gadhafi from a government-organized trip near Ajdabiya, Libya on March 16, 2011: Jerome Delay/AP)