After days of negotiations and dashed hopes, Libyan government officials Monday finally delivered on their promise to release Oklahoma City native Anthony Shadid and three fellow New York Times journalists who were captured March 15 while reporting on the Libyan rebellion.
Buddy Shadid, a retired Oklahoma City dentist, said his son called him about 6 a.m. Monday from the Turkish embassy in Libya to say embassy diplomats were arranging for his safe passage out of the country.
The Pulitzer Prize-
“I'm glad it's over,” he said. “It has been nerve-racking and I'm exhausted. ... They tried to get out yesterday, but because of the bombing and anti-
Buddy Shadid said he expects his son to fly back to Beirut, where he is The New York Times bureau chief, but also expects him to come to Oklahoma soon for a visit.
After days of worrying about his son's safety, it was good to finally hear his voice Monday, he said.
“He sounded tired,” said Buddy Shadid, 79. “He sounded like he was OK, but just exhausted.
He said his son indicated it was a “harrowing experience and he was anxious to get home.”
“He wasn't at liberty to discuss much more than that until he had briefed The New York Times,” Buddy Shadid said.
Quoting British sources, Fox News reported Monday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had used journalists from CNN, Reuters and other news organizations as human shields Sunday, inviting them to Gadhafi's compound to view damage from an earlier attack in hopes their presence would deter further attacks.
British aircraft were prepared to launch seven Storm Shadow missiles at the compound Sunday, but called off the strikes because of the journalists' presence in the area, Fox News reported.
The compound was targeted because of its air defense systems and its military command and control center, not because of any effort to kill Gadhafi, coalition commanders said at a briefing.
Buddy Shadid said he was unsure of the location in Tripoli where his son and the other New York Times journalists were kept, so he didn't know whether they were part of any human shield.
“The only information I have is he was in a house with three other journalists,” he said.
Anthony Shadid, a Heritage Hall graduate and former University of Oklahoma student, won the Pulitzer Prize in both 2004 and 2010 for his coverage of the Iraq War.
He and fellow New York Times journalists Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario were captured March 15 by Gadhafi loyalists while reporting on the conflict between government and rebel forces in Ajdabiya.
Initially, family members didn't know whether the journalists were alive or dead.
Last Thursday, Libyan government officials informed The New York Times through various channels that the journalists were in custody of Libyan authorities.
Family members have been on an emotional rollercoaster ever since as the journalists' anticipated release was repeatedly delayed and the United States and coalition partners launched missile and air attacks to stop Gadhafi's troops from killing rebels.
Buddy Shadid said his son, like many western reporters, rushed to cover the rebellion without first obtaining a visa, which apparently was one of the factors that complicated efforts to obtain his release.
Turkey, acting on a request from the United States, played a key role in obtaining the journalists' release, The Associated Press reported Monday.
The AP reported Turkey's ambassador to the United States said his nation's ambassador in Tripoli initially had reached an agreement for the journalists to be handed over Sunday, but the release was delayed a day because of coalition bombing.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Monday that the journalists were captured and detained as they were leaving the front lines of clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces in and around Ajdabiya.
As the journalists attempted to drive east toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, they were stopped at a new checkpoint established by pro-Gadhafi forces.
A firefight between rebels and the pro-Gadhafi militants erupted, the newspaper reported.
After the fighting subsided, the captors drove the journalists along a coastal road until they reached Surt, a Gadhafi stronghold. From there, they were flown to
Tripoli aboard a military aircraft, The New York Times reported.
Buddy Shadid said he has received more than 150 calls since his son was taken captive.
“The love, concern, prayers and the support people have shown has been overwhelming,” he said. “I think that has helped to bring him home.”