The four New York Times journalists who were just freed after almost a week in the custody of the Libyan government told their story to coworker Jeremy Peters. And it sounds as terrifying as you might expect.

As they were being pulled from the car, rebels fired on the checkpoint, sending the four running for their lives.

"You could see the bullets hitting the dirt," [Beirut bureau chief Anthony] Shadid said.

All four made it safely behind a small, one-room building, where they tried to take cover. But the soldiers had other plans. They told all four to empty their pockets and ordered them on the ground. And that is when they thought they were seconds from death.

"I heard in Arabic, ‘Shoot them,' " Mr. Shadid said. "And we all thought it was over."

Shadid and photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario and reporter and videographer, Stephen Farrell were originally captured at a checkpoint in Ajdabiya, and treated fairly brutally for two days until their transfer to Tripoli, where they were allowed phone calls. Eventually, the Turkish diplomatic mission was allowed to act as an intermediary and secure their release; all four were driven to Tunisia on Monday afternoon.

Particularly disturbing is Addario's account of aggressive groping and "disturbing behavior" on the part of their Libyan captors: "Every man who came in contact with us basically felt every inch of my body short of what was under my clothes," she tells Peters. And, in further bad news, the journalists' driver—Mohamed Shaglouf—is still missing, along with as many as 13 journalists.