Libya gov't frees 3 Western journalists

Libyan hold a portrait of their leader Moamer Kadhafi in the wreckage of the Boussetta Libyan navy base on March 22, 2011, the day after it was bombarded some six miles east of Tripoli.

TRIPOLI, Libya - Agence France Presse said the Libyan government released on Wednesday three journalists captured last week near a key eastern city that has been a daily battleground between Muammar Qaddafi's forces and Libyan rebels.

The AFP reported the three were freed in Tripoli.

The journalists are reporter Dave Clark, 38, and photographer Roberto Schmidt, 45, both of whom work for AFP; and Joe Raedle, 45, a photographer for Getty Images.

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Citing a driver who was traveling with them, AFP said the journalists ran into a military convoy about 7 miles outside the eastern city of Ajdabiya on Saturday, and the three were detained.

Four New York Times journalists held for six days and released Thursday said they were abused while in Libyan captivity.

"All those who at every moment of their lives think that freedom is not a useless word are rejoicing thoroughly at this hour," said AFP chief executive Emmanuel Hoog in a statement released in French.

"I thank everyone in the company for his or her mobilization, the French government for its determination to find a just and happy end to this detention and the Libyan authorities for their speed, following my urgent request, to liberate some journalists whose only aim was to witness the reality of the situation that Libya is facing today." Hoog said.

Libyan soldiers physically abused a team of New York Times journalists and threatened to kill them during the six days they were held in captivity, the newspaper said Tuesday. The four journalists said they were captured when their driver mistakenly drove into a checkpoint manned by Libyan forces in eastern Libya on March 15. After their release, they left Libya. Their driver is still missing.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an advocacy group, 13 journalists are either missing or in government custody in Libya. The missing include four from Al-Jazeera. Six Libyan journalists also are unaccounted for, the group said.

CPJ also says it has confirmed more than 50 attacks or attempts to silence the media since Libya's unrest began in February. The toll includes two deaths, more than 33 detentions, five assaults, two attacks on news facilities and the jamming of at least two satellite news transmissions.