WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two American citizens who were detained in Syria have been released, the State Department said on Friday as it renewed its criticism of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters.
“We can confirm that the two American citizens who were detained in Syria for the past several days have been released. Due to privacy considerations I can’t provide any further information,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing.
News reports had identified the two as a blogger and a college student, both of whom were swept up by Syrian security officers as anti-government protests shook the country.
U.S. officials have been in touch with the two and are “satisfied that they have been released,” Toner said, although Syria had not granted U.S. requests for consular access to them.
The United States on Thursday advised its citizens to put off nonessential travel to Syria and urged those in the country to consider leaving because of protests which flared anew on Friday despite tentative moves by Assad to begin addressing demonstrator’s demands.
“We condemn today’s violence against peaceful protesters and we’ve been very clear all along in our support in their essential right to express their views,” Toner said.
The United States has long had strained ties with Syria, which maintains an anti-Israel alliance with Iran and supports the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Mohammad Zargham