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After two days of captivity, Foley and the other journalists are taken to Tripoli for interrogation.
In 2011, Foley spent 44 days in captivity inside Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. This is the third chapter of that story. For the full series, click here.
We had been in captivity now for two days. Five hours after leaving Sirte, we arrived in Tripoli. A city of modern high-rise apartments, its outskirts were plastered with billboards praising the 42-year old revolution. Like a tour guide, our drivers pointed out Gaddafi’s palace, Baab Al Azziza. There was a line of cars waiting to get in.
“See Tripoli is normal,” the driver said. We blinked in amazement. Indeed, the only thing out of sorts was the extraordinarily long line of cars at the gas station.
When we were taken out of the van, at a military base, the energy changed immediately. Authoritative voices yelled at us, telling us to keep our heads down. A blindfold was tied too tightly over my eyes and my hands rebound. Then all six of us were shoved into a paddy wagon and driven to some kind of prison.
The next thing I saw was my cell, a large concrete block with a row of bunk beds pushed against the far wall. There was one window over the cell door. Clare soon followed, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't be alone. Manu and the others were placed in other cells.
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When they first came, they came after midnight. Clare was first. A young, slick-looking guy carrying an AK-47, said “Madam,” and motioned for her to follow. Clare quietly refused. He insisted. She left, and didn't return for more than eight hours. Somehow I managed to get some sleep. When she came back, at about 7 a.m. in the morning, she burst into tears.
“It was horrible,” she said. “They think I’m a spy.”
“Clare, that’s just the game they’re playing,” I said, trying to comfort her. I knew I’d be next. They would do this to all of us one by one. We could be accused of being spies it seemed, regardless of the truth, or the evidence.
The next evening I was taken upstairs in a blindfold. Knowing how Clare had been broken down over many hours, I tried to calm myself, to prepare for a similar kind of interrogation. They sat me down in a dirty office, or maybe a storage room. There were bunk beds without mattresses and a heavy desk littered with cigarette butts and trash. I was blindfolded again when my interrogator entered the room.
“Are you a sporting man?” he asked, leaning over me, clutching my thighs in an aggressive but not altogether unfriendly manner.
“The Americans are bombing us with Tomahawks,” he said in English. “Tomahawks. I can show you where they’ve hit houses and killed our children.” I nodded, thinking it was probably best to agree with everything he said. “My grandfather fought the Italians from a horse. From a horse!” He yelled. “Allah, Gaddafi, Libya,” he pronounced. This went on for several hours.
When he finally began asking how I got into Libya, who I reported for, where I had stayed, and who I had talked to — I was careful to tell the truth, and to be consistent, down to the number of stories I had filed. I knew I wasn’t smart enough to construct a lie, that it would be dangerous and with no obvious benefit. I said I hadn’t met any prominent rebels besides the Transitional Council spokesmen, only omitting the name of the rebel general we’d interviewed.
The interrogation began to turn. The voice asked me about the rebels themselves — were they well armed? How did they eat, how did they get money? I told him about how poorly the rebels were organized, how they often went to the front unarmed. I said I thought they were crazy, which was true. He asked me if I would go on State TV and say these things. “The TV station is waiting outside,” he said. But he was lying.
I started to become paranoid. I thought that