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Two journalists seized by Gadhafi's forces

A reporter from Britain's Guardian newspaper and a Brazilian colleague who went missing in Libya this week were imprisoned by government forces, Reporters Without Borders said.
Image: Andrei Netto, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Left: Brazilian journalist Andrei Netto of the Brazilian newspaper Estado who has been detained at an unknown place in western Tripoli, according to 'O Estado de Sao Paulo'. Right: Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has gone missing after reporting from western Libya for the past two weeks.EPA
/ Source: NBC News and

A reporter from Britain's Guardian newspaper and a Brazilian colleague who went missing in Libya this week were arrested and imprisoned by government forces, Reporters Without Borders said Thursday.

Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi national, and Andrei Netto from Brazilian newspaper Estado, were being held at an undisclosed location, the organization quoted an Estado editor as saying.

"All we know is that he (Netto) is well physically and that the Brazilian ambassador in Libya is on the spot to negotiate his release," said Luciana Constantino of Netto's newspaper.

Reporters Without Borders said the two were arrested on March 6 in the area of Zawiya, the rebel-held western city under attack by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"They are currently detained," it said.

Estado reported on its website that Libya's ambassador to Brazil, Salem Omar Abdullah Al-Zubaidi, had told Brazilian senators that Netto was about to be released.

Al-Zubaidi said Netto was arrested because of mistakes he made in forms he filled out to enter Libya.

The Guardian, meanwhile, said it was trying to find out where its correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was.

Abdul-Ahad and Netto entered the country through Tunisia. Abdul-Ahad was last in touch with the Guardian from the outskirts of Zawiya Sunday, the newspaper said.

"Urgent efforts are under way to establish the whereabouts of the Guardian correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who has been reporting from western for the past two weeks," the newspaper said on its site.

On Wednesday, the U.K.'s BBC said security forces had detained and tortured three members of a BBC news team in the west of the country.

The three British Broadcasting Corp. staff were detained, beaten and subjected to mock executions by pro-regime soldiers in Libya while attempting to reach Zawiya, the broadcaster said.

'Screams' from second floor
The three journalists, Chris Cobb-Smith, Goktay Koraltan, and Feras Killani, told the BBC they were hooded, handcuffed and subjected to mock executions during their 21-hour ordeal.

The men and a Libyan driver were arrested Monday at a checkpoint south of Zawiya, where Gadhafi loyalists have been engaged in heavy fighting with rebels, The Times newspaper in the U.K. reported.

After fleeing Libya, the journalists provided details of their account:

  • One of Gadhafi's officers picked on Killani because he is Palestinian, saying Hamas wasn't loyal to Gadhafi. "When I tried to respond he took me out to the car park behind the guard room. Then he started hitting me without saying anything. First with his fist, then boots, then knees."
  • The team was taken to Tripoli with a guard pointing an AK-47 at the men. Cobb-Smith and Koraltan said they were locked in a cage, while soldiers beat up Killani with their AK-47s. "I was down on my knees and I heard them cocking their guns. I thought they were going to shoot me. It was a fake execution," Killani said. "They were saying I'm a spy working for British intelligence."
  • Koraltan said there appeared to be "a big operation going on" where they were held, saying there were lots of people in the building and he could hear "screams coming from the second floor." He saw people who were "hooded and handcuffed" being moved around.
  • "We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line — facing the wall," Cobb-Smith told the BBC. "I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone's neck. I saw him and he screamed at me. Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed."

The men said the beatings stopped after a Libyan official showed up and offered them tea, coffee and cigarettes.

The official, who spoke fluent English, apologized, saying "sorry it was a mistake by the military," Killani told the BBC.