Libyan authorities have freed two British journalists who were arrested late last month by a militia group in capital Tripoli for entering the country illegally, officials said late on Sunday.
The scribes, Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies-Jones, were working for the Iranian broadcaster Press TV when they were detained in Libya. The duo have since admitted to entering the north African country illegally and apologized for their actions.
They were detained by the Misrata Brigade militia in Tripoli on February 22 and handed them over to the Interior Ministry last week after weeks of negotiations with the interim authorities.
The duo were initially accused of spying and faced the possibility of espionage charges. Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Omar al-Khadrawi told a news conference in Tripoli that the two men were being released as it became obvious that no crime had been committed.
The two Britons are now expected to be deported from Libya on Monday. The British Foreign Office confirmed the release of the two detained journalists, and welcomed the move by the Libyan authorities.
"We welcome the release of the two British journalists who have recently been detained in Libya. Foreign Office officials are providing them with Consular assistance which we have done throughout. The men are in the care of Consular staff, they are well and look forward to being reunited with their families soon," a Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement.
The latest development comes nearly seven months after the Qadhafi regime was toppled in a NATO-backed armed revolution in August. Qadhafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years with an iron fist, was shot dead on October 20 by revolutionary fighters on the outskirts of his hometown Sirte.
Tripoli has been under the control of several armed militia groups since the ouster of the Qadhafi regime. The National Transitional Council, which has been governing Libya since the ouster of Qadhafi last year, is currently struggling to enforce its authority in the capital and in the rest of the country.
Continued presence of armed militia groups in and around Tripoli has raised concerns about the possible outbreak of violence in the Libyan capital. There are also concerns that the arms left behind by Qadhafi forces as well as those supplied to the revolutionaries by their supporters may now land up in other African nations facing Islamist insurgencies and other armed rebel movements.
The possibility of the Libyan arms ending up in the possession of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the branch of the global terror outfit in North Africa, has already triggered tensions in the region. AQIM is believed to have established itself in the Sahara desert between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
by RTT Staff Writer
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