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US: More Progress Needed in Bahrain

A protester throws a glass bottle containing paint at a riot police armoured personnel carrier during anti-government clashes in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, Bahrain, Feb. 14, 2016.

The United States has praised Bahrain's steps toward political reform, but said the country needs to do more, adding that U.S. officials will continue to press concerns over freedom of expression and other related rights.

"Bahrain has made progress in some areas, including by creating institutions that improve oversight of security institutions, but more work remains to be done," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday on the five-year anniversary of an uprising in the U.S.-allied Gulf kingdom.

Earlier, an American freelance journalist said she and the three members of her camera crew were safe and in good health after being released from detention in Bahrain, where they had been accused of participating in an illegal gathering.

The four U.S. journalists arrested in Bahrain while covering the anniversary of the island nation's 2011 uprising were released and flew out of the country Tuesday, a lawyer said.

"My team and I feel very fortunate to have been permitted to leave Bahrain last night," Anna Day, a freelance journalist who has reported for numerous media outlets, said in a statement issued by two journalist colleagues.

Despite charging them, Bahraini officials allowed them to head for the airport, apparently after the intervention of the U.S. Embassy in Manama.

Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf and surrounding waterways crucial to the global oil trade. Their arrest and charges highlight the sensitivity the kingdom still feels five years after the uprising, as low-level unrest and protests continue.