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British journalists freed in Libya

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:07 PM EDT, Sun March 18, 2012
Two British journalists captured by a Libyan militia in late February have been freed, the UK government said Sunday.
Two British journalists captured by a Libyan militia in late February have been freed, the UK government said Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies "are well," Britain says
  • A Libyan militia group seized the journalists in late February
  • They were handed over to Libya's central government last week

London (CNN) -- Two British journalists captured by a Libyan militia in late February have been freed, the British government announced Sunday.

Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and Nicholas Davies "are well" after being turned over to British diplomats "and look forward to being reunited with their families soon," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement announcing their release.

The Saraya Swehli militia accused the journalists, who work mainly for Iran's state-run Press TV, of lacking proper immigration paperwork. But it turned the men over to the central government in Tripoli last week, paving the way for their return.

Montgomery-Johnson's sister, Mel Gribble, told CNN on Thursday that the family had been "buoyed up" by the handover and was looking forward to hearing good news "in the next day or two." She said the past weeks had been a "whirlwind of stress and anxiousness" as the family sought to deal with the situation.

Some militias that established themselves to fight dictator Moammar Gadhafi have remained intact and outside government control since Gadhafi's government fell in August. Saraya Swehli told Human Rights Watch that it did not have faith in the central government.

Gribble said her brother's passport was valid, and that although she was aware there had been a "difficulty with visas," he was not alone in having that issue.

She described hearing the news of her brother's capture by the militia group as "a physical and emotional terror. Your body is almost cut in two. ... It's terrifying."

CNN's Per Nyberg and Nima Elbagir contributed to this report.

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