CBS News crew comes under fire in Libya

Barry Petersen
Barry Petersen, CBS News Correspondent
Barry Petersen

Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET

A vehicle carrying CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen and a news crew came under fire Thursday while traveling from the Libyan capital city of Tripoli to the desert town of Bani Walid.

Petersen told CBS Radio News that the lone gunman appeared to be a loyalist to ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The assailant got off three shots at their van, and one hit the vehicle, Petersen said. The CBS crew escaped unharmed but was forced to surrender a videotape when first stopped by the gunman.

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Located 90 miles southwest of Tripoli, Bani Walid is one of the three major strongholds remaining for Qaddafi loyalists. In a message Thursday, Qaddafi said the tribes in the town and his hometown of Sirte were armed and "there is no way they will submit."

"Normally Americans here have been greeted with joy, people celebrating the fact that we were here to help with Qaddafi's downfall," Petersen told CBS Radio News. "To this man, it was the exact opposite. It triggered his anger. It triggered his desire to shoot us. Obviously a Qaddafi loyalist who felt that America and NATO had taken Qaddafi out of power, and this was going to be his moment of bloody revenge."

The crew was preparing to record some video of Petersen for a story at an abandoned roadblock in an empty area of the desert when a car stopped and the driver attacked them, Petersen said.

"We ran about 15 yards for our van as fast as we could," he told CBS Radio News. "He pulled up the weapon and was intending to fire at us at that point, but he realized he didn't have a magazine in his 9 millimeter. So he reached in his pocket, put in a magazine, recocked, which gave us a chance for our last person in our team to come around and literally dive into the van and then he opened fire."

Petersen and the crew have now returned to their Tripoli hotel.

"There were six of us," Petersen told CBS Radio News. "The last guy who's been helping us with someone, who actually dove into the side the van, slammed the door as we headed out. We all crouched down because the firing was going on. We didn't quite know what was going to happen. We didn't know what was going to happen to any of us, and I must say there is that old cliche that in a moment like that the seconds seem like hours, and I gotta tell ya in an moment like that the seconds do seem like hours."