KAILUA, Hawaii -- Four U.S. military personnel have been detained by the Libyan government, a State Department spokeswoman said Friday, but the circumstances of their detention were not immediately clear in a region that has been embroiled in turmoil.
“We are seeking to further ascertain the facts and ensure their release,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We are in touch with Libyan officials on this issue.”
Little was known about the incident Friday involving the four Americans, but Libya has been grappling with increased violence and infighting since a 2011 civil war in which longtime autocratic leader Moammar Kadafi was toppled and killed.
Early this week, a suicide car bombing killed at least 13 people in Bersis, about 30 miles from Benghazi. This month, an American schoolteacher was killed in Benghazi, the city where attacks on the U.S. Consulate in September 2012 resulted in the slaying of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
This fall, gunmen briefly abducted Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who was freed hours later.
As armed groups have battled one another, as well as security forces, in Benghazi, a number of diplomatic missions in the city have closed. The fighting has created instability in the oil market as militias have seized ports and oil fields nearby to use as bargaining chips with Zidan’s weakened government.
It was not immediately clear where the incident involving the four U.S. military personnel took place or how serious the situation was. President Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, carried on with his normal routine Friday, heading to the gym for an early morning workout and then spending much of the afternoon with his family at a secluded beach at the Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu.