Four US military personnel investigating potential evacuation routes in Libya were taken into custody at a checkpoint and detained briefly by the Libyan government before being released, say US officials. The exact circumstances remain unclear, but the four were operating in an area near the coastal city of Sabratha, about 40 miles west of Tripoli. They were apparently investigating routes that diplomats would take if they needed to flee Tripoli in an emergency, perhaps a Benghazi-like one. They were detained at a checkpoint and transferred to the Ministry of the Interior before being released after about four hours.
The four—probably US special-ops forces—were supporting Marine security forces protecting the American Embassy in the capital, said an anonymous State Department official. The New York Times notes that the area is controlled by local tribes, not the government, and "it is easy to imagine that a foreigner with a diplomatic passport and a gun who was stopped at a checkpoint would be presumed to be a spy and therefore detained."