The armed Gadhafi goons who held captive the three dozen journalists in the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli released their hostages today after they finally woke up today to the reality that they were virtually the last regime stronghold in Tripoli.
"It's a great thing to come out of a situation like this... in one piece. There were no injuries, nobody's been killed, and it's just a huge, huge relief that we came through it," said Matthew Chance, CNN's gutsy correspondent at the Rixos.
The multi-national press corps at what had been considered a posh hotel by Tripoli standards were living in the dark, facing occasional sniper fire and an unknown fate. They were short of food and water, existing in a virtual sweatbox without air conditioning in a desert country.
It was a "terrible, horrible situation at the Rixos hotel for the past week or so" and the journalists "have been sleeping in the corridors, wondering if we were going to make it," Chance said on CNN.
The guards were described as angry, young, AK-47-wielding "crazy gunmen" who blamed the international media for the revolution in Libya, at times intimidating and threatening the journalists.
"They're die-hards, there really believed that Gadhafi was coming back, that he was beating the rebels," Chance said.
"As Tripoli fell to the rebels it became more and more obvious that there was nothing really outside oif the hotel that was in Gadhafi's control. The reality slowly dawned on these people until today, just a couple of hours ago," Chance said.
"They essentially just capitulated to the 36 journalists inside the Rixos Hotel. They handed over their weapons. Those weapons were sort of put out of use. They said 'We're going to let you go,'" Chance explained.
Arrangements were made with the International Committee of the Red Cross, who provided cars that pulled the media people out of the Rixos. The 36 journalists hugged, kissed, congratulated each other and shook hands after they were finally free.
The journalists noted that as they drove away that rebel forces were not far away from the hotel, crediting the opposition fighters for not storming the Rixos and potentially engaging in a firefight that may have led to a very different outcome.