The Latest: Chicago police release men held in Smollett case

FILE - In this May 20, 2016 file photo, actor and singer Jussie Smollett attends the "Empire" FYC Event in Los Angeles. Chicago police say they're interviewing two "persons of interest" who surveillance photos show were in the downtown area where Smollett says he was attacked last month. A police spokesman said Thursday the two men aren't considered suspects but may have been in the area at the time Smollett says he was attacked. Smollett says two masked men shouted racial and homophobic slurs before beating him and putting a rope around his neck on Jan. 29. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Chicago police release men detained in the Jussie Smollett assault case

CHICAGO — The Latest on the attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett (all times local):

9:25 p.m.

Chicago police say they have released two Nigerian brothers who had been arrested earlier in the week on suspicion of assaulting "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, saying that detectives have additional investigative work to complete.

The men were picked up by police Wednesday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and their apartment was searched Thursday. They were questioned Friday but police were obliged to release them if they had not been charged within 48 hours.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: "Due to new evidence as a result of today's interrogations, the individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charges."

Smollett says he was assaulted on Jan. 29 by two men who shouted racial slurs and put a rope around his neck.

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2:05 p.m.

A Chicago police spokesman confirms that the two suspects arrested in the reported hate crime involving black actor Jussie Smollett are black.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also says the suspects were arrested on suspicion of assault and battery. He says department policy prohibits him from naming the victim but says that he can say the two Nigerian brothers were arrested in connection with the case involving the "'Empire' cast member." Smollett is an actor on the television drama and has said he was beaten in a racist, anti-gay attack last month.

Guglielmi also says at least one of the men in custody worked on "Empire," but he does not know in what capacity.

The men are being interrogated Friday by detectives. Police picked them up Wednesday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after they flew from Nigeria. On Thursday, police served a search warrant at their Chicago apartment.

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9:55 a.m.

Chicago Police say the two men being questioned in the attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett are considered suspects.

Department spokesman Anthony Guglielimi said Friday that the men are in custody and have been arrested based on probable cause that they may have been involved in a crime. But he says they have not been charged in the Jan. 29 attack.

Police have identified the men only as two Nigerian brothers. Police have been questioning them since they were picked up by officers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday after returning to the city from Nigeria. On Thursday, police served a search warrant at their home.

Guglielmi says at least one of the men worked on "Empire," but he does not know in what capacity.

Smollett told ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday that the men are the ones who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck.

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8:40 a.m.

Chicago police says local media reports that allege the attack against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has contacted at least one Chicago news outlet to say investigators have no evidence to support the reporting. Guglielmi says Johnson said the supposed police "sources are uninformed and inaccurate."

The reports surfaced late Thursday as investigators questioned two "persons of interest" in the case who were captured on surveillance cameras in the area where Smollett says he was attacked.

The actor says two masked men beat him after shouting racial and homophobic slurs and tied a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29.

Producers of the television drama also dispute that Smollett's character is being written off the show, calling the reports "patently ridiculous."

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See AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett

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