herald

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Welcome to the Hotel California... and siege of the trapped reporters

The journalists trapped in the Rixos al Nasr have nicknamed it "Hotel California" -- a surreal place, awash with paranoia, where you can check out but never leave.

As rebels fight their way through the Libyan capital, three dozen international correspondents remain holed up in the once lavish five-star hotel. Their minders have disappeared, their food and water is running out and -- most crucially -- the power that provides their link to the outside world flickers on and off.

Their Twitter messages have provided a snapshot of life inside. Last night the CNN correspondent Matthew Chance wrote: "Shooting around Rixos; journalists moving upstairs to safety." Moments later, he added: "Gunfire inside the hotel. Going on air."

Armed guards loyal to Muammar Gaddafi who have imprisoned the journalists in the 120-room hotel are still outside and the fear is they will become hostages or human shields for desperate remnants of the old regime.

In the past few days, the chimes and surreal intercom voice that had summoned them to press briefings in the middle of the night have been replaced by artillery explosions and sniper fire.

Amid the marbled, chandelier-lit hotel, complete with a luxury spa, the journalists have been forced to retreat to the basement on several occasions or exist by candle-light during frequent power cuts. They have tried to stay upbeat despite the battles and some, using the excuse of visiting the local convenience store, have managed to slip the net briefly but rumours abounded that taxi drivers were under strict instructions to return them to the authorities.

hnews@herald.ie

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