The Times said they had been captured by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Libyan government officials told the United States State Department on Thursday evening that all four would be released, The Times reported.
Gadhafi's son, Seif Islam Gadhafi, told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour that the journalists had entered Libya illegally. He said that when the pro-Gadhafi forces found one of the four, Lynsey Addario, they arrested her.
"But then they were happy because they found out she is American, not European," he told Amanpour. "And thanks to that she will be free tomorrow."
Gadhafi's son did not comment directly on the release of the other three. It was not immediately clear why nationality would have been a factor in the Libyans' decision.Video: Maceda: Fighting continues despite Libyan ceasefire (on this page)
The New York Times reported that the Libyan government allowed all of the correspondents to contact their families Thursday night.
"We're all, families and friends, overjoyed to know they are safe," Bill Keller, The Times's executive editor, said Friday. "We are eager to have them free and back home."Story: Four New York Times journalists missing in Libya
The Times spokeswoman told the Associated Press the newspaper had no additional comment at this time.
The journalists are Anthony Shadid, The Times's Beirut bureau chief and a two-time Pulitzer-prize winning foreign correspondent; two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Addario, who have extensive experience in war zones; and a reporter and videographer, Stephen Farrell, who in 2009 was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and was rescued by British commandos.
Editors had last heard from the journalists on Tuesday as they were covering the retreat of rebels from the town of Ajdabiya, and Libyan officials told the newspaper they were trying to locate the four, executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement.
The White House on Wednesday urged the Libyan government to refrain from harassing or using violence against journalists. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is firm in its belief that journalists should be protected and allowed to do their work.
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