Four American military personnel have reportedly been detained by Libyan authorities near Sabratha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the northwestern corner of the country.
A passport photo circulated around Libyan Facebook pages before being picked up by Libyan media outlets. Another picture was reportedly circulating of their visas, showing they were in the country legally.
The Tripoli Post reported that four “armed American security personnel” were detained Friday night in the city of Al-Ajailat, a few miles outside Sabratha. The region is a tourist area along the coast and not a hotbed of extremism.
More from the Tripoli paper:
According to Omar Al-Mukhtar, the head of the Sabratha Military Council, the incident occurred when two SUVs were stopped at a checkpoint of Shebaika and each was carrying two foreigners.
The persons were armed and carried communication equipment.
…Postings on social media have accused the four Americans as spies and questioned the reason behind their venturing away from the capital Tripoli.
One vehicle, Toyota Land Cruiser, carrying two people tried to escape but it was chased and stopped near Sabratha city where the security people from Ajailat arrested the two Americans in the car which was later set on fire.
Al-Mukhtar said the four individuals were handed over to the Interior Ministry.
“We are seeking to further ascertain the facts and ensure their release,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We are in touch with Libyan officials on this issue.”
A Pentagon official told CNN the men were “augmenting security at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.”
Apparently a car belongs to U.S embassy been burned while capturing the 2 Americans in #Ajaylaat #Libya pic.twitter.com/d1r8ygvUSj
— Sami M Berriwen (@ModernLibya) December 27, 2013
picture of 2 of the Americans arrested in #Sabratha, apparently they had weapons too pic.twitter.com/TXOULO8npz via @BANOTALIBYIA #Libya
— Mohamed Eljarh (@Eljarh) December 27, 2013
UPDATE: All four men have reportedly been released.