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Officials: Freed hikers heading for U.S.

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:31 AM EDT, Sun September 25, 2011
Josh Fattal, center, Shane Bauer and Bauer's fiancée, Sarah Shourd, sit in Muscat International Airport before flying home.
Josh Fattal, center, Shane Bauer and Bauer's fiancée, Sarah Shourd, sit in Muscat International Airport before flying home.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Freed Americans Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer thank Oman for help and hospitality
  • NEW: "These experiences will be with us for the rest of our lives, Fattal says
  • Iranian authorities released them Wednesday, more than two years after their arrest

Muscat, Oman (CNN) -- Two American hikers freed this week from an Iranian prison will leave Oman for the United States late Saturday, American and Omani officials said.

Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were released by Iran on Wednesday and were flown to Muscat, Oman's capital, where they enjoyed several days of freedom after more than two years in prison.

In statements at Muscat's airport, Bauer and Fattal thanked Omani officials for their hospitality and assistance in securing their release.

"Just hours after we left prison, we were able to swim in the calm waters of the Gulf," Fattal said. "We stayed up all night with our loved ones and watched the most beautiful sunrise we have ever seen. These experiences will be with us for the rest of our lives."

The men, along with Sarah Shourd, were arrested and charged as spies in July 2009 after apparently straying over an unmarked border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran.

The Americans, both 29, say they accidentally crossed into Iran when they veered off a dirt road while hiking near a tourist site in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. They appealed their eight-year sentences while serving time in prison.

Shourd was freed almost exactly a year ago on medical grounds. Her release came a week before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations last year. Fattal and Bauer were released on Wednesday, a day before this year's address to the U.N. by the Iranian president.

Shourd and Bauer became officially engaged on Friday.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.

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