TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyans armed with guns and a knife stormed a bus carrying foreign journalists on Saturday and a soldier fired volleys of gunfire into the air to disperse the crowd, a Reuters journalist on the bus said.
The attack reflected Libyan anger at severe petrol shortages, a two-month-old NATO bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s government and state media reports that foreign journalists misrepresent the news.
The incident started when a hotel shuttle bus carrying a Reuters reporter and a journalist with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television to the Tunisian border became snarled in a long line of motorists waiting for fuel at a petrol station in Zawiyah, west of the capital.
The buses are given priority over many in obtaining petrol.
A crowd quickly formed and some stormed the bus after kicking in its doors. At least two were armed with pistols and one had a knife, Reuters television producer Guy Desmond said.
A BBC production assistant on the bus, a government minder and a soldier managed to ward off the crowd, taking blows in the process. The bus’s tires were slashed and a soldier fired into the air to push the crowd back.
“I have no doubt that these guys pretty much saved our lives,” Desmond said. The bus drove to a police station and the journalists later returned to the Tripoli hotel where foreign media are based.
Nobody was injured in the incident, which began at about noon local time.
A senior information ministry official said ‘incorrect reporting’ fueled some resentment of foreign media.
Journalists in Tripoli say that while foreign media are viewed with deep suspicion by supporters of leader Muammar Gaddafi, there is little evidence of widespread anger.
Two photojournalists were killed last month after coming under fire in the besieged Libyan town of Misrata.
A South African freelance photographer missing since April is believed dead after being shot in the stomach and abandoned in the desert by pro-Gaddafi forces, his family said on Friday.
Writing by Matthew Bigg, editing by Ralph Boulton