Accessibility links

Breaking News

Syria Releases 2 Americans Detained for Illegal Entry

U.S. officials say Syria has released two American journalists detained for entering the country illegally.

A State Department spokesman said 27-year-old Holli Chmela and 23-year-old Taylor Luck are in "good condition" at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus.

Earlier Thursday, Syria's foreign ministry said 27-year-old Holli Chmela and 23-year-old Taylor Luck had crossed into Syria from Lebanon without visas and with the help of a smuggler.

A foreign ministry statement said they would be turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus after "necessary procedures" were completed.

The journalists were reported missing in Lebanon more than a week ago.

The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon said Wednesday the two were last seen in Beirut October 1, when friends say they left for the northern city of Tripoli. They were expected to cross the Syrian border on their way back to Jordan, where they have been living.

Syria has recently increased its military presence along the Lebanese border in what it says is a move to stop smuggling.

The American pair arrived in Lebanon on September 29 for a brief holiday.

Both journalists have written for The Jordan Times, an English-language newspaper in Amman. The paper says Luck has worked there for more than a year, and Chmela had been an intern until recently.

Syria boosted its troop presence along Lebanon's northern border after a terrorist attack in Damascus in late September. Syrian authorities blame the attack on al-Qaida-inspired extremists based in north Lebanon.

Damascus said Wednesday that its troops along the border number in the hundreds, not thousands as Lebanon earlier said.