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US Hails Release of American Detained in N. Korea

Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press in Pyongyang on Sept. 1, 2014.

U.S. officials are welcoming the release of Jeffrey Fowle, an American who had been detained in North Korea since May.

The United States, however, is continuing to urge Pyongyang to free two other Americans who remain in custody.

North Korea on Tuesday abruptly freed Fowle, after which U.S. officials announced that he had departed North Korea and is heading home. Fowle, who arrived in North Korea on a tourist visa, was arrested earlier this year after leaving a Bible in a North Korean restaurant and bar.

He was never put on trial and his family has denied charges that he traveled to the country on a church-related mission.

Both the White House and the State Department called Fowle's release a “positive decision," but State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there is continued concern about the two Americans who remain in custody.

“We remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them,” said Harf, adding that Fowle has been evaluated by a doctor and appears to be in good health.

"It's not about whether or not we believe his story," she added. "I would remind people that we have a very strict travel warning in place, telling Americans not to travel to North Korea for a variety of reasons. But I think today it is not about whether or not we believe his story. We believed, as we did today as we did yesterday, that he should immediately be released, as he has been."

There was no immediate word on what prompted North Korea to free Fowle, but Harf said the Swedish government played a role in negotiations for his release.

Miller was sentenced to six years of hard labor after being convicted of “hostile” acts against North Korea. Bae received a 15-year prison sentence, also for “hostile” acts.

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