Africa

Libya conflict: Kidnapped Italian journalists freed

From left: Elisabetta Rosaspina, Giuseppe Sarcina, Domenico Quirico and Claudio Monici
Image caption The four were kidnapped in Tripoli on Wednesday

Four Italian journalists kidnapped and held by suspected loyalists of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi have been freed.

The journalists were reportedly released during a raid on the house in Tripoli in which they were being held. They were unharmed.

They had been abducted and their driver was killed in the capital on Wednesday.

One of them, Domenico Quirico, told his Turin-based newspaper La Stampa: "Now I'm fine. Until about an hour ago I thought I'd be dead."

The others were Elisabetta Rosaspina and Giuseppe Sarcina, from Milan daily Corriere della Sera, and Claudio Monici, from Avvenire, the daily of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference.

"They are now in a hotel with other Italian journalists. They are well," an Italian foreign ministry spokesman told AFP news agency.

Possessions stolen

Mr Monici told reporters they had been stopped by fighting close to Col Gaddafi's former headquarters after an assignment in Tripoli's Green Square.

The armed kidnappers killed their driver in front of them, locked the journalists inside a house and stole possessions including a camera, cash and passports, he said.

"There were a lot of people with guns - very angry, saying 'you are Italian, you are bombing'," Mr Monici said.

Italy has been part of Nato's bombing campaign against Col Gaddafi's forces.

"I'm thinking of the family of the driver. He was a good friend," Mr Monici added.

Mr Sarcina said the captors had treated the hostages well and that they eventually received help to escape.

However, it remained unclear who had freed them.