U.S. urges Egypt to release detained Turkish state news agency employees

(Releads, Updates throughout with reactions to the arrests)

The United States called on Egyptian authorities on Wednesday to release four state-run Anadolu news agency employees detained in a police raid on the agency's Cairo office.

"We’re aware of the reports. If true, we call on the Egyptian Government to release the detained journalists and allow for a free and open press in Egypt," a State Department spokesperson told Anadolu Agency.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the police raid on Anadolu Agency’s Cairo office, demanding the immediate release of four detained employees.

The office workers, including one Turkish citizen, were taken to an undisclosed location after the raid Tuesday evening, Anadolu reported.

The Foreign Ministry summoned Egypt's charge d'affaires in Ankara to protest the move. It said the operation was unjustified and called it “an act of harassment and intimidation against the Turkish press.”

"This act of violence against AA [Anadolu Agency] once again highlighted not only the negative approach of the Egyptian government to press freedom, but also its grave situation on democracy and transparency," the ministry said in a statement.

It also blamed Western countries for condoning the raid by overlooking Egypt’s violations on press freedom.

The main opposition Republican People's Democratic Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar talked  Anadolu's editor-in-Chief Şenol Kazancı on the phone, both expressed the discomfort they felt at the arrests, Hürriyet newspaper said.

Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's presidential communications director, took to Twitter to condemn the event. 

"Turkish media is being targeted for their country of origin. This is unacceptable. We call on international media organizations to expose & condemn such behavior," he said.

Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, also rebuked the detention of Anadolu employees.

"There is no legal, conscientious and human basis of this intrusive and improper behaviour," he said.

The raid comes amid simmering tensions between Turkey and Egypt, primarily due to Turkey’s close ties with the Islamist Brotherhood movement.

The countries have also taken opposing sides in several regional disputes, including the ongoing Libyan conflict, oil and gas drilling in the East Mediterranean, and the 2017 Arab embargo on Qatar.