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Now safely out of Qaddafi's grasp, they tell their harrowing story:

Tyler’s hands were bound by a strip of a scarf. A soldier took off Lynsey’s gray Nike shoes, then bound her with the shoelaces. “God, I just don’t want to be raped,” she whispered to Steve.

“You’re the translator!” a slight soldier screamed at Anthony. “You’re the spy!”

A few seconds passed, and another soldier approached, demanding that we lie on our stomachs. ... At that moment, though, none of us thought we were going to live. Steve tried to keep eye contact until they pulled the trigger. The rest of us felt the powerlessness of resignation. You feel empty when you know that it’s almost over.

“Shoot them,” a tall soldier said calmly in Arabic.

A colleague next to him shook his head. “You can’t,” he insisted. “They’re Americans.”

They bound our hands and legs instead with wire, fabric or cable. Lynsey was carried to a Toyota pickup, where she was punched in the face. Steve and Tyler were hit, and Anthony was headbutted.

Even that Tuesday, a pattern had begun to emerge. The beating was always fiercest in the first few minutes, an aggressiveness that Colonel Qaddafi’s bizarre and twisted four decades of rule inculcated in a society that feels disfigured. It didn’t matter that we were bound, or that Lynsey was a woman.

Thirteen journalists are still missing or detained in Libya.

(Photo: In this March 21, 2011 photo released by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from left to right, New York Times journalists Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks, Ambassdor Levent Sahinkaya, Lynsey Addario and Anthony Shadid pose at the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli, Libya. By the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AP)

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