CAIRO, August 24 (RIA Novosti)
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi loyalists are keeping 35 foreign journalists inside a hotel in downtown Tripoli, Al Arabiya television said on Wednesday.
The reporters have not been allowed to leave the Rixos Hotel since late Tuesday as the fighting for control of the capital between Gaddafi soldiers and rebels intensified.
According to Al Arabiya, the journalists have been largely deprived of water and electricity, and food is in short supply. They have to wear bullet-proof vests and helmets, as gunfire periodically erupts in the neighborhood.
Rebels claimed on Wednesday they were trying to release the reporters, who had been issued passes by the International Organization for Migration for a possible departure from the Libyan capital by sea.
However, a direct assault on the hotel guarded by a handful of soldiers wearing civilian clothes and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenade launchers could put the lives of the reporters in serious danger.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday called on Libya's National Transitional Council and opposition forces to ensure the protection of all foreign nationals during the final days of the Gaddafi regime and transition period.
Rebels seized control of much of Tripoli this week, but Colonel Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown. According to a pro-Gaddafi television channel, the 69-year-old promised "martyrdom or victory" in his fight against the rebels and NATO forces.
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