Libya releases N.Y. Times journalists

Michael Calderone

Four New York Times journalists, who have been missing almost a week in Libya, were released Monday by the government.

"We are grateful that our journalists have been released, and we are working to reunite them with their families," a Times spokeswoman said in a statement to The Cutline. "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."

The Times last spoke to the four journalists—Anthony Shadid (reporter), Stephen Farrell (reporter), Tyler Hicks (photographer) and Lynsey Addario (photographer)—on March 15.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi, suggested two days later in an interview with ABC News that the journalists would be released. The Times initially reported their journalists would be out Friday, but the process took several days longer.

The United States no longer has a diplomatic presence in Libya and therefore has little ability to provide on the ground assistance to journalists captured in the war-torn country.  Turkish diplomats were involved in helping free the journalists.

Namik Tan, Turkey's ambassador to the United States, tweeted Monday that "the 4 @nytimes journalists are on their way to leave Libyan border and will be delivered to US officials."

The Envoy's Laura Rozen reports that the journalists were handed over to the Turkish ambassador in south Libya at around 5:30 A.M. (EST), according to an official with the Turkish embassy in Washington. Turkish ambassador Levent Sahinkaya took the journalists to the border of Tunisia to hand them over personally to U.S. authorities around 9 A.M.

The Gadhafi regime closely monitors foreign journalists who have been invited to Tripoli and permits them to cover government-approved events and areas. However, foreign journalists working independently outside the capital have been detained and beaten by forces loyal to Gadhafi.

(Photo of Libyan boy on destroyed military vehicle belonging to Gadhafi forces outside Benghazi, Libya on March 20, 2011: Anja Niedringhaus/AP)