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Ministry: American detained in Libya said he was on basketball club

By Jomana Karadesh and Greg Botelho, CNN
January 3, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libyan ministry: An American, a Cameroonian were detained at a Benghazi university
  • They were transferred from university security to the Libyan army, then released
  • Both claimed to play for a Benghazi basketball team, said a student was touring them
  • The U.S. State Department says it's been in contact with U.S. citizen who was detained

(CNN) -- Libya's foreign ministry acknowledged Friday that at least one American had been detained -- then released -- in Benghazi, one day after the U.S. State Department said it had been in contact with a detained citizen.

In a statement carried by the official Libyan News Agency, the foreign ministry said that an American and Cameroon national were both stopped on University of Benghazi grounds Thursday evening, at a time when only registered students were allowed on campus.

University security turned over the pair to Libyan Army Special Forces in the eastern coastal city, according to the ministry.

Both said they played for al-Hilal basketball team, which is in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, and were taking a tour around campus escorted by a student.

They were later released in the presence of representatives from the foreign ministry and al-Hilal Sports Club, according to the official statement.

The state news agency earlier reported -- citing unnamed security sources -- two Americans had been detained by Libyan authorities after being spotted scouting the university.

It was not clear if the nationalities were not entirely correct (and the Cameroonian was mistaken for an American) in that report, or if there were in fact two Americans detained.

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did say that diplomats had communicated with "a private U.S. citizen" who'd been stopped in Benghazi, adding that she couldn't say anything more than that.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz and Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.

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