Anton Hammerl with footballer Aaron Mokoena, who received the Freedom of the City of London last year. Photo: Facebook

Anton Hammerl, a former photographer for The Star and three other journalists captured in Libya were still incommunicado but on their way to Tripoli.

The New York Times reported that Western journalists were informed by Libyan government sources that the captured journalists had been located and were on their way to Tripoli where they would be released.

No further information was forthcoming.

Hammerl, Global Post reporter James Foley, American freelancer Clare Gillis and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo were travelling with rebels on the outskirts of the oil-rich town of Brega when they were caught up in the fighting.

The driver of their vehicle was released but the journalists held by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

South African government officials were in contact with their international partners, including Commonwealth countries, to try to negotiate Hammerl’s release.

The group were a few kilometres from Brega on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses told the New York Times’ CJ Chivers. It was “a lonely stretch of road in a no-man’s land between the forces”, Chivers said.

According to the witnesses, the area came under fire, stopping the journalists in their tracks.

Suddenly two trucks carrying Gaddafi loyalists appeared and took the four but released their driver.

Moussa Ibrahim, the Libyan government spokesman told the AP: “They would be very lucky if they are caught by the Libyan army. They have every right to question them and ask who they are. If they are journalists then legally they have violated the law of this country by entering its country without the legal (authorisation). We have indeed released dozens of journalists.”

Hammerl’s wife, Penny Sukhraj, was informed of her husband’s detention by Human Rights Watch yesterday morning.

Sukhraj and Hammerl live in London with their two boys, one aged seven years and the other eight weeks.

This morning both her and Hammerl’s facebook pages were inundated with messages of concern and prayers for the veteran conflict photographer’s safe return.

Hammerl was in Libya as a freelancer, filing pictures for news agencies.

“We have to get involved because this is a South African. We have noted the report about Anton Hammerl and our consular section is using various platforms to see how we can intervene,” said department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela.

The South African government has withdrawn all consular personnel in Tripoli and there has been no formal Libyan representative in South Africa since the resignation of their long-serving ambassador, Abdallah Alzubedi.

In recent days, Brega has been the scene of fierce fighting between rebel and government forces. Yesterday rebel forces advanced with tanks in an attempt to retake Brega but were thwarted when Nato planes, which are supporting their efforts, fired on the convoy, killing at least five and disabling eight tanks.

Three weeks ago four New York Times journalists were captured by Gaddafi forces and detained for six days before being released into Turkish custody by the Libyan government. - The Star