There is growing concern about the safety of international journalists in Libya following reports that they are being targeted by the Libyan regime and its supporters.

While a BBC team was beaten and allegedly tortured, The Guardian said one of its most experienced journalists in the region, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, was missing since Sunday.

A Brazilian journalist, Andrei Netto, who was with him is also missing. Both last made contact with their respective newspapers from near Zawiya, west of Tripoli.

The Guardian has been in contact with Libyan government officials in Tripoli and London and requested them to act urgently to discover where he is, if he is safe and well, and to establish if he is in the custody of the authorities,” it said in a statement.

Mr. Netto's newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, said it had information that Mr. Netto was in the Libyan government's custody.

According to the BBC, three of its journalists were detained by Libyan security forces when they were on their way to Zawaiya.

The journalists, who have since been released, were “beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by Libyan troops and secret police''.

One of them Chris Cobb-Smith said: “We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line — facing the wall. I looked and I saw a plainclothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone's neck. I saw him and he screamed at me. Then he walked up to me, put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger twice. The bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed.”

Condemning the “abusive treatment'' of its reporters, the BBC said: “It is essential that journalists working for the BBC, or any media organisation, are allowed to report on the situation in Libya without fear of attack.”

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay described their treatment as a “serious violation of international law''.

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