Four U.S. military personnel released after being detained in Libya

Last Updated Dec 28, 2013 12:05 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- Four American military personnel were detained in Libya but later released,  U.S. officials said Friday night.

The State Department said earlier Friday evening that the four were being held by the Libyan government.

"We can confirm that four U.S. military personnel are currently being held in Libyan government custody," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

She did not give any further information about the circumstances of the detention. 

"We are seeking to further ascertain the facts and ensure their release. We are in touch with Libyan officials on this issue," Psaki said.

Late Friday, U.S. officials said the four had been released.

"All four (have been) released," a U.S. defense official told Reuters.

The New York Times reported that the service members were taken into custody near Roman ruins at Sabratha, a tourist area about an hour's drive from the capital, Tripoli. They were investigating potential evacuation routes for diplomats, the report said.

 The incident takes on greater significance because of the militant attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, in which U.S.Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

 The attack touched off a political storm in Washington,with Republicans accusing  President Barack Obama's administration of telling shifting stories about who was behind the assault.

 In October, U.S. forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, also known as Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli in connection with the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in1998.