North Korea Detained US Student After 'Hotel Incident'

'My belief is that Otto kept it to himself out of hope it might go unnoticed'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2016 3:05 PM CST
North Korea Detained US Student After 'Hotel Incident'
Small American flags have been placed in the trees in front of the Warmbier family home in Ohio. North Korea on Friday announced the arrest of Otto Warmbier for what it called a "hostile act."   (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

There are still few details about the "hotel incident" that led to the detention of a 21-year-old American college student earlier this month while visiting North Korea, Reuters reports. Otto Warmbier was preparing to leave the country Jan. 2 when he was detained at Pyongyang Airport, according to the AP. That's when the leaders of his group from Young Pioneer Tours learned "there had been an incident" at Yanggakdo International Hotel, where Warmbier had been staying earlier in the trip. "What happened, happened at the hotel, and my belief is that Otto kept it to himself out of hope it might go unnoticed," tour leader Charlotte Guttridge tells Reuters. She says Warmbier wasn't with other tourists during the "hotel incident." Young Pioneer Tours isn't giving any more details, stating it's concerned about Warmbier's safety.

When the tour group—which contained 10 other US citizens—arrived at the airport, Warmbier was taken to another room by officials, Reuters reports. "He was not dragged away, and he wasn't yelled at," Guttridge says. The tour group ended up leaving Warmbier behind, but not before being informed he had been "taken to hospital." Tourists have been detained in the past for handing out religious materials, but Young Pioneer Tours doesn't believe Warmbier had any religious or political materials on him. The Chinese company—which promises "budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from"—states Warmbier was acting normal during the five-day tour. According to the AP, Warmbier has been accused of a "hostile act" by the North Korean government. He's an Ohio native currently attending the University of Virginia. (More North Korea stories.)

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