Walter Fauntroy may still be held in the Rixos Hotel, where Western journalists spent nearly a week until their escape on Wednesday
Members of the media gather in a corridor at the Rixos hotel in Tripoli August 23, 2011. REUTERS / Paul Hackett
UPDATE: Many of the journalists held at Tripoli's Rixos Hotel were allowed to leave, according to reports on Wednesday. Fauntroy's whereabouts are unknown.
Former U.S. member of Congress Walter Fauntroy, currently held in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel, had traveled to Libya on a self-appointed peace mission. His trip did not have his government's approval, though he appears to have planned to negotiate on behalf of his country, and came as a complete surprise to the State Department, government sources tell The Atlantic. Fauntroy is being detained by troops loyal to Muammar Qaddafi along with several Western journalists at the Rixos Hotel. It is not immediately clear if they is being held as hostages by the regime.
Fauntroy, a 78-year-old veteran of the U.S. civil rights movement and a Baptist pastor, served as District of Columbia's non-voting delegate to Congress from 1971 to 1991. He is currently serving as the president of the Global Campaign for Middle East Peace, which defines itself as a "multicultural, interfaith organization, launching an international campaign for peace in the Middle East with a primary focus on resolving the tragic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians." It's not clear if he was traveling on behalf of the group, the website for which -- a WordPress blog -- lists no contact information.
Walter Fauntroy in the Rixos Hotel / AP
U.S. officials said they could confirm that the purpose of Fauntroy's Libya trip was, as he has said, to broker peace there. CNN reporter Matthew Chance, who is also at the Rixos and has emerged as a sort of informal spokesman for the journalists there, also confirmed on Twitter that Fauntroy was present and "was on a peace mission." Chance has also detailed the group's efforts to remain safe and secure food as fighting rages outside.