Libya releases four U.S. military personnel
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Libyan government late Friday released four U.S. military personnel who had been taken into custody while they were operating near the city of Sabratha, some 50 miles west of Tripoli, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.
“We are still trying to ascertain the facts of the incident,” Jen Psaki said in a statement released early Saturday.
The four — who were in Libya “augmenting security at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli” — were believed to have been held by the Interior Ministry, a State Department official told CNN late Friday on condition of anonymity.
The detentions followed the U.S. announcement last month that it was stepping up military support for Libya’s fledgling security forces, which have been overwhelmed by militia violence and unrest since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Popular sentiment against the various militias has been mounting for months in Tripoli and other parts of the country, including the eastern city of Benghazi, where increasing violence has included assassinations.
On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
The United States has offered a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in that attack. While U.S. authorities have filed charges in the case, no one has been arrested.
The detention of the four personnel followed reports of a U.S. military operation in October that saw members of the Army’s elite Delta Force launch a raid in Tripoli that captured Abu Anas al Libi, an alleged al Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Libya’s interim government called his capture a kidnapping and demanded an explanation from Washington.
“We value our relationship with the new Libya,” Psaki said. “We have a strategic partnership based on shared interests and our strong support for Libya’s historic democratic transition.”