Map showing Zawiya and Tripoli

The four journalists were kidnapped on the road between Zawiya and Tripoli and taken to a building in the capital

Four Italian journalists kidnapped near Tripoli this morning have been released, according to Italy's foreign ministry.

The four newspaper journalists were reportedly freed during a raid on the building in which they were being held in the capital.

They were kidnapped early this morning while driving through a checkpoint near Zawiya, around 50 miles west of Tripoli. Their driver, a Libyan national, was reportedly killed at the scene and the journalists taken to a building in the capital.

It is not known who was responsible for the kidnapping, but Italian foreign ministry spokesman Maurizio Massari said Gaddafi loyalists were understood to be responsible.

The reporters were identified as Elisabetta Rosaspina and Giuseppe Sarcina from Corriere della Sera; Domenico Quirico from La Stampa; and Claudio Monici from Avvenire.

Monici was reportedly allowed to contact his newsroom while they were detained and told colleagues that the four were unharmed.

Their capture and subsequent release follows news yesterday that around 35 international journalists had been allowed to leave the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli after spending five days trapped during heavy fighting between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists.

BBC News correspondent Matthew Price said the conditions had "heavily deteriorated" towards the end, becoming "miserable" as food and water started to run out and they were prevented from leaving by armed guards.

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