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North Korea: We've detained another American

By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 6:57 PM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The man's name is Jeffrey Edward Fowle, North Korean state media say
  • The U.S. State Department says it is aware of the reported detention
  • North Korea accuses Fowle of acting "contrary to the purpose of tourism"
  • A Japanese news agency reports that he left a Bible in a hotel

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea announced Friday that it has detained a U.S. citizen who it says entered the secretive country as a tourist in April and broke the law.

The news brings the number of Americans believed to be held in the communist nation to three.

North Korea: We've detained an American

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that authorities are investigating a man who it said violated the law by acting "contrary to the purpose of tourism."

In a brief English-language article, KCNA gave the American's name as Jeffrey Edward Fowle, saying he arrived as a tourist on April 29. It didn't give any other details.

Alan Gross, at right with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, has been in Cuban custody since December 2009, when he was jailed while working as a subcontractor. Cuban authorities say Gross tried to set up illegal Internet connections on the island. Gross says he was just trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet. Former President Jimmy Carter and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have both traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf, but they were unable to secure his release. Alan Gross, at right with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, has been in Cuban custody since December 2009, when he was jailed while working as a subcontractor. Cuban authorities say Gross tried to set up illegal Internet connections on the island. Gross says he was just trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet. Former President Jimmy Carter and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have both traveled to Cuba on Gross' behalf, but they were unable to secure his release.
Americans detained abroad
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Photos: Americans detained abroad Photos: Americans detained abroad
North Korea detains American tourist
Merrill Newman is once again a free man

Citing unidentified diplomatic sources, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Fowle was part of a tour group and that he was detained in mid-May after allegedly leaving a Bible in a hotel where he had been staying.

The U.S. State Department said it was "aware of reports that a third U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea." But it declined to provide any further information, saying it couldn't share details about specific cases without written consent from an individual.

"There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad," a State Department official said.

North Korea says it has another American in custody

Other Americans held

North Korea said in late April it was holding a different American man, who it claimed came the country seeking asylum.

He tore his tourist visa and shouted that "he would seek asylum" and "came to the DPRK (North Korea) after choosing it as a shelter," KCNA said.

KCNA identified that man as Miller Matthew Todd, who it says was taken into custody on April 10.

The U.S. State Department said at the time that it was aware of the report and had been in touch with Sweden, which represents American interests in North Korea, about the matter. It declined to disclose any further information.

North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in 2013 by a court that said he had carried out acts aimed at bringing down the regime of leader Kim Jong Un.

Although North Korea contains a number of state-controlled churches, the totalitarian regime forbids independent religious activities, viewing them as potential threats to its authority.

Other Americans detained in the North have later been released.

Last year, Pyongyang freed Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War who was on an organized private tour in the country, after holding him for several weeks.

Kenneth Bae worried about his health in North Korean camp

Accused of spying and setting up church, South Korean sentenced in North Korea

CNN's K.J. Kwon reported from Seoul, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Gabe LaMonica contributed to this report.

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