The Libyan Civil War battle for Tripoli continued on August 23. Gaddafi loyalist troops were reduced to smaller pockets around or near the former center of power. A dangerous situation has developed around Rixos Hotel, which has been occupied by Gaddafi’s elite troops for some time. Most foreign press was forced to reside in the hotel by Gaddafi’s regime. It appears that its defense against the rebels is the last claim to legitimacy the former leader hopes to retain. His thinking seems to be that as long as the Western press is confined to a territory controlled by him, he can claim that he is still the legitimate ruler of Libya. This has transformed the journalists in a virtual bargaining chip in the fight for power in Libya. The development can, at the same time, lead to transforming the journalists into hostages and human shields.
UPDATE: Luckily, the journalists were allowed to leave the hotel on August 23rd. The rebel speedy advance in Tripoli did not leave the regime sufficient time to play its last cards. Gaddafi is in hiding and the city largely in rebel hands.
The situation at Rixos hotel was described by the BBC correspondent in these terms:
This is day five now of what you might call the siege of the Rixos Hotel and it is a desperate situation for about 35 foreign nationals here including Britons, a US congressman and other Americans, and an Indian MP.
The situation deteriorated massively overnight when it became clear that we were unable to leave the hotel of our own free will. Gunmen were roaming around the corridors, some of them, it seemed, trained professional Gaddafi soldiers.
We believe there are still snipers on the roof of the hotel and effectively our movements are curtailed. The ITN cameraman just had an AK-47 pulled on him – a guard approached him and pushed him back, pointing the gun towards him.
He is okay but still there is a huge amount of apprehension and nervousness among the journalists stuck here in this hotel.
Watch the latest news from the Tripoli battle on BBC.
Bab al Azazia location.