Baltimore man freed in Libya
Matthew VanDyke, the Baltimore freelance journalist who went missing in Libya in March, has escaped from an infamous prison there one day after rebel forces stormed Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, his family said Wednesday.
The 32-year-old VanDyke, who traveled to the war-torn country to witness the revolution for a book he is working on about the region, called his mother, Sharon VanDyke, and told her that he escaped from the Abu Salim prison where he was held for six months in solitary confinement.
"He sounded fine and said, 'Hi, mom,' saying what I wanted to hear all along," said Sharon VanDyke, the South Baltimore resident who has been a tireless advocate for her son since she lost contact with him earlier this year. "He sounded fine other than he said he thought maybe he lost his voice because he didn't have anybody to talk to for six months."
VanDyke's family, who said he is wearing prisoner's clothing as he wanders a lawless Tripoli, said he borrowed someone's phone to call home at around 2 p.m. He then called again around 2:30 p.m.
VanDyke's girlfriend, Lauren Fischer, who was the first to hear from VanDyke, described the family as "exited and relieved."
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who has been working to bring attention to VanDyke's plight for months, said he is now focused on trying to find a way to bring him back to the U.S. -- no easy task as the fledgling Transitional National Council attempts to restore order to the country.
"It's very chaotic. We still have a long way to go," Ruppersberger told The Sun. "This is really what makes this job worthwhile."
Earlier this week, there were six U.S. citizens still missing or presumed held in Libya, including VanDyke. State Department officials said Wednesday that all citizens known to be detained in Libya had been released, but said the government is still concerned for their safety.
"We are diligently working through a variety of contacts, including the Hungarian Embassy in Tripoli which serves as our protecting power, to provide assistance to those who may require it," a State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said in a statement. "To the extent possible, we are in contact with those U.S. citizens in Tripoli who have alerted us to their presence. Interruptions in communications services, however, are frequent."
The months-long military stalemate in the country has rapidly shifted in recent days after rebels, backed by NATO support, took control of Tripoli.