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Dozens of Journalists Freed From Tripoli Hotel

"They literally cast away their weapons and said they were sorry to us and said you're free to go."

Three dozen international journalists were freed from Tripoli's Rixos Hotel Wednesday after being held hostage for five days by armed pro-Moammar Gadhafi loyalists.

According to the Associated Press, the International Committee of the Red Cross had been attempting to negotiate for the journalists' release when the loyalist forces suddenly said they would be letting them go.

The journalists had been held at gunpoint by guards who refused to give up their posts even as rebel forces claimed victories throughout the Libyan capital.

CNN's Matthew Chance reported the guards "essentially just capitulated" upon realizing rest of the city had fallen.

"They didn't know that any of this had taken place outside the permiter of the hotel, they thought it was still in control of Colonel Gadhafi," Chance said.

When the guards finally realized there was no need to continue to hold the journalists, "they literally cast away their weapons and said they were sorry to us and said you're free to go," Chance said.

In one of his first on-camera appearances, Chance was surrounded by celebrating Libyans, who at times growing so raucous Chance had to ask them multiple times to settle down so he could continue his report.

"I have been given loads of flowers," Chance said, holding up a bouquet. "The whole city is celebrating its freedom. I feel a connection with them because I'm celebrating mine as well."

The celebrating continued, including with crowd members holding up photographs of Gadhafi and ripping them in half in front of the camera.

"Guys, guys please just one second," Chance implored.

Members of the press had been housed at the Rixos for the past six months to report on unfolding events, closely watched by government forces. As the rebels advanced through the city, guards began preventing the journalists from leaving.

When the journalists were first released, Chance told CNN and referred to the situation as a "nightmare" and said they had all considered the worst-case scenarios, including being used as human shields or executed.

The journalists cried when they told they were free to go, he said.

"Everybody's been hugging each other," Chance said. "People who have been living cheek-to-jowl for the past five days, sleeping in the corridors, wondering whether we were going to make it -- it's all very emotional," Chance reported.

One last thing…
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