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Inside Gaddafi's Libya: The Return

Foley returns to Libya to witness the fall of Gaddafi and to search for the body of his colleague, Anton Hammerl.

laid Lazarus-like beside the cell.

In prison, he told everyone he was trying to leave Libya by driving from Tripoli to Egypt. It never made sense to Clare and I that he would head through the middle of a war zone in order to exit it. The regime clearly suspected Richard of heading East to help train the rebels. It ended up being true.

Richard even told me he had the name of a rebel contact in his belongings when he was arrested trying to leave Tripoli, and managed to crumple the slip of paper and throw it in the dirt before they found it. If they had found it, it most likely would have been the evidence they needed to execute him as an American spy.

Among all the journalists crowded inside the hotel, I waited for Manu. When he appeared shaggy haired and smoking at a table of Spaniards in the grand dining room, we shared a long hug. I hadn’t seen him since we were all separated at the Rixos at the end of May. Like the natural he was, Manu jumped into what was going on in Tripoli and started shooting prison stories with fellow photographers Ricardo and Guiem.

Quickly, it seemed that the rebels were converging to assault the loyalist holdouts of Bani Walid and Sirte. I thirsted to get close to the action. With all that had happened to us, I wanted to prove I could cover combat again without getting captured or killed. But the reality is that yet again the guns and death were like a tractor beam pulling us closer. If more battles were coming, I wanted to be there.

Bani Walid was frustrating. The usual variety of rebel groups under chaotic mastheads converged on the mountainous tribal area, which reminded me of a miniature Afghanistan. But the rebels were all united in the idea that they didn’t want journalists close to the frontlines. Manu and I tried to sneak in with groups driving toward the front a few times, and rebel commanders yelled at us like we were criminals. After almost two weeks of trying to get close to the action from two different sides, I was offered a ride and left Bani Walid for Sirte.

We’d heard all kinds of rumors about Sirte — from rebel uprisings brutally suppressed, to a ring of loyalist tanks disguised in animal skins. Sirte was an artificial, almost fantastical Gaddafi-land filled with soon-to-be-destroyed posh hotels and bungalows with seaside views. Africans who’d been granted Libyan citizenship decades ago lived next to families from loyalist tribes that owned nice Toyotas and hung Gaddafi posters in their kids’ rooms. For being so loyal to Gaddafi, they enjoyed one of the best standards of living in Libya.

Manu, Clare and I had been held in Sirte for three days — we’d arrived bound and blindfolded with blood still on our faces — and held in the basement cells of the internal security building before being moved to Tripoli. I had no idea what Sirte actually looked like. But I would after covering the battle for more than a month. There was little doubt Sirte was going to be taken by the famous black-truck Misrata brigades, which would certainly be anxious to avenge the thousands that were killed by Gaddafi forces in their own city.

More from GlobalPost: Libya: Rebels push into central Sirte

The second day I arrived in Misrata with a team from the AFP. We followed some Misratan brigades on a desert convoy south and straight into battle with a loyalist town called Wadi Bey. The trucks inched to the edge of the town and then stopped. We waited. Then seemingly prompted by the delay in negotiations, the trucks flew forward, ours caught in the middle, as the rebels blasted straight at Wadi Bey with heavy guns. We managed to get our driver and truck behind cover and followed far back from the young guys in flip-flops running to launch rocket-propelled grenades.

Andrea, an AFP video reporter and myself made some excursions ahead, and the risk of it felt real. I was doing what I felt I’d come back to Libya to do — recapture the feeling and importance of reporting from