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Hiker heads home after Iran release

An American woman released from Iran after more than 13 months in custody has begun her journey back to the US after asking her supporters to "extend your prayers" to her fiance and another American man who remain in Tehran accused of spying.

In a brief statement, Sarah Shourd thanked Oman for mediating the 500,000 US dollars (£320,000) bail that led to her freedom earlier this week.

But Ms Shourd made no mention of her ordeal inside Tehran's notorious Evin Prison or any health problems - which her mother has said include a breast lump and pre-cancerous cervical cells.

She urged people to "please, please extend your prayers" to the other two Americans still held - her fiance Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal.

She spoke at Oman's international airport before boarding an Oman Air flight on the first leg of her trip home, accompanied by her mother Nora and an uncle.

Ms Shourd was next scheduled to appear at a news conference in New York on Sunday timed to coincide with the arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend the UN General Assembly.

The 32-year-old appeared in good spirits and less gaunt than when she stepped off a private Omani jet on Tuesday after her release from Iran. She thanked Omani officials for playing an intermediary role between Iran and the United States for her release.

"I'll always associate your country with the first breath of my freedom, the sweet smell of sandalwood and a chance to stand by the ocean listening to the waves," she said, wearing long-sleeve black T-shirt covered by a white top and white trainers.

The three Americans were detained in July 2009 along the Iraqi border. Iran has issued espionage-related indictments, which could bring trials for the two men and proceedings in absentia for Ms Shourd. Their families say that if they crossed the border, they did so unintentionally.

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