Sexually assaulted and told 'You'll die tonight'... but spared as she's American: Female journalist's horror at the hands of Gaddafi's men
A female war photographer from the New York Times revealed tonight how she was repeatedly sexually assaulted during her nightmare hostage ordeal in Libya.
Lynsey Addario was one of four Times journalists have now been released after being held captive by pro-Gaddafi forces.
During their six-day detainment, the Americans were beaten and threatened with being decapitated and shot.
One man grabbed her breasts – the start of a pattern of sexual harassment she endured over the ensuing 48 hours.
‘There was a lot of groping,’ she said. ‘Every man who came in contact with us basically felt every inch of my body short of what was under my clothes.’
As she was being driven away from Ajdabiya, she said another of her captors stroked her head and told her repeatedly that she was going to be killed.
‘He was caressing my head in this sick way, this tender way, saying, "You’re going to die tonight. You’re going to die tonight",‘ she added.
Miss Addario was with Anthony Shadid, the paper’s Beirut bureau chief, photographer Tyler Hicks and reporter and videographer Stephen Farrell when they were seized while leaving the scene of fighting between rebels and Libyan government forces because they decided it had become too dangerous.
Their driver inadvertently drove into a checkpoint manned by troops loyal to the Libyan dictator.
‘I was yelling to the driver, "Keep driving! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!",' said Mr Hicks. ‘I knew that the consequences of being stopped would be very bad.’
As they were being forced out of their gold-coloured sedan, rebels opened fire sending them sprawling for safety.
‘You could see the bullets hitting the dirt,’ said Mr Shadid.
The soldiers forced them all to lie on the ground and they feared they were going to be murdered there and then.
‘I heard in Arabic, "Shoot them",’ said Mr Shadid. ‘And we all thought it was over.’ But then they heard another soldier say: ‘No, they’re Americans. We can’t shoot them.’
The fate of the car driver, Mohamed Shaglouf, is unknown.
The prisoners were tied up using wire, an electrical cord, a scarf and even a pair of laces and bundled into a car that drove them away from the city.
Each time they stopped at a checkpoint, soldiers would punch them or hit them with rifle butts, according to the Times report.
The first night they spent in the back of the vehicle and for the second they were put in a dirty cell with a bottle to urinate in and a jug of water to drink.
On the third day, they were blindfolded and put on a plane to Tripoli, where they were held in reasonable comfort in a safe house until their eventual release this morning.
After Libyan demands for a U.S. diplomat to be sent to Tripoli to collect the journalist was rebuffed, the Turkish Embassy was allowed to act as an intermediary.
Even then there was an agonizing last minute hitch when the planned release on Sunday was postponed because of the coalition bombing.
After the four were safely out of Libya, Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said he was ‘overjoyed’ at the news.
‘Because of the volatile situation in Libya, we’ve kept our enthusiasm and comments in check until they were out of the country, but now feels like a moment for celebration,’ he wrote in a note to the newsroom.
‘We’re particularly indebted to the government of Turkey, which intervened on our behalf to oversee the release of our journalists and bring them to Tunisia,’ Mr Keller added.
‘We were also assisted throughout the week by diplomats from the United States and United Kingdom.’
Thirteen journalists are still said to be either missing in Libya or in government custody.
They include four from the Al Jazeera Arab TV network, two from Agence France-Presse news agency and a photographer from Getty Images. Six Libyan journalists are also unaccounted for.
Last month, South African journalist Lara Logan, Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS, was also sexually abused while covering scenes of celebration in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Miss Logan was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault before being saved by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers.
The mother-of-two needed hospital treatment on her return to the US.