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Militia turns British journalists over to Libyan government

The commander of the Swehli militia in Misrata, holds a picture of a British journalist during a press conference in Tripoli on March 4, 2011.

Story highlights

  • "We are pretty hopeful this is a prelude to their release," a source tells CNN
  • Nicholas Davies and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson were seized in late February
  • A Libyan militia accused them of lacking proper immigration papers

A pair of British journalists held by a Libyan militia have been handed over to the central government, British government sources said Wednesday in what one called a possible step toward their freedom.

Nicholas Davies and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson were seized in late February, along with the Libyans who accompanied them, according to Human Rights Watch. Libya's transitional government had been trying to get the militia to hand over the two men, the group said.

The British sources said the men have now been transferred to the transitional government.

"We are pretty hopeful this is a prelude to their release," one of the sources, who asked not to be named while discussing sensitive issues, told CNN.

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Some militias that established themselves to fight former dictator Moammar Gadhafi have remained intact and outside government control since Gadhafi's government fell in August.

The Saraya Swehli militia accused the journalists, who work mainly for Iran's state-run Press TV, of lacking proper immigration paperwork. The group told Human Rights Watch that it did not have faith in the central government, an HRW official told CNN in February.

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