Libya has released the four U.S. military personnel who it had arrested and detained, AP is reporting.
“All four (have been) released,” a U.S. defence official told Reuters.
The four unidentified U.S. military personnel — who were augmenting security at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli — were briefly held by the Libyan government, according to a senior Pentagon official speaking to CNN’s Barbara Starr.
“We are seeking to further ascertain the facts and ensure their release,” State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told Fox News after their detention was discovered. “We are in touch with Libyan officials on this issue.”
The episode appears to have taken place in a town just southwest of the historic Roman ruins at Sabratha and about an hour’s drive from Tripoli, the capital. The area is not known for anti-Western extremists or other obvious threats. In part because it is a tourist area, the district around Sabratha skews relatively liberal and friendly to Westerners.
Citing a defence official speaking on condition of anonymity, Ernesto London of The Washington Post reported the four men were taken into custody while scoping out potential evacuation routes for diplomats serving at the embassy.
The Times also reported photos of passports and embassy ID cards being shared on Twitter, though the State Department had no comment.
These are unconfirmed, but here are the photos being passed around:
The embassy in Tripoli issued a security message in November, advising U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings and “maintain a high level of vigilance.”
The security posture in Libya was ramped up substantially in the wake of an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, where four Americans were killed on Sep. 11, 2012.
This is a developing story, and will be updated as we learn more details.