Suspects Arrested Over Jussie Smollett Attack

Two Nigerian brothers have been arrested over the attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett.

The two had been characterised by police as "persons of interest" in the case but are now considered suspects and have been arrested on "probable cause that they may have committed a crime", a Chicago police spokesman said.

Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the two men -- whom police have identified only as Nigerian brothers -- were picked up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday.

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They were taken into custody after returning from Nigeria, after police learned that at least one of the men worked on Empire alongside Smollett.

He said he did not know what the man's job was on the television drama.

He confirmed a search warrant was executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived but did not have any information about what exactly police found.

Friday's announcement capped a furious 24 hours that has included local media reports that the attack was a hoax.

Police said those reports are unconfirmed. Producers of the television drama also disputed media reports that Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show, calling the idea "patently ridiculous".

Robin Roberts interviewing Jussie Smollett about the attack on February 14, 2019 for Good Morning America. Image: Stephen Green/ABC via Getty.

Smollett says two men hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, threw an undetermined chemical substance and looped a rope around his neck before running off.

Smollett said he was attacked on January 29 while out getting food at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago.

Guglielmi stressed that the two men have not been charged in the attack, only that they have been arrested for probable cause.

He also said that police have not found any surveillance video showing the attack itself, though they continue to look for such evidence.

He said police also are contacting various retail stores in the hopes of determining who bought the length of rope that was around Smollett's neck.