Two American hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who had been jailed in Iran for over two years, have expressed joy at finally being released.
"We're so happy we are free and so relieved we are free,” Fattal told reporters Wednesday, shortly after he and Bauer arrived in the Gulf state of Oman.
The pair then hurried down the steps of a small plane directly into the awaiting arms of anxious loved ones.
According to CBS News, the families waited on the tarmac at a royal airfield near the main international airport in Oman's capital, Muscat.
Also waiting in Oman was Sarah Shourd, who was arrested with Bauer and Fattal but was freed last year due to medical concerns. Shourd has since become engaged to Bauer.
"Today can only be described as the best day of our lives. We have waited for nearly 26 months for this moment and the joy and relief we feel at Shane and Josh's long-awaited freedom knows no bounds. We now all want nothing more than to wrap Shane and Josh in our arms, catch up on two lost years and make a new beginning, for them and for all of us," commented the hikers' families through a prepared statement.
President Barack Obama also expressed gratitude at the release of the two Americans, saying in a statement, "I welcome the release of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal from detention in Iran and am very pleased that they are being reunited with their loved ones.”
The president also commended the families for their relentless work in helping to secure Bauer and Fattal's freedom.
"The tireless advocacy of their families over these two years has won my admiration, and is now coming to an end with Josh and Shane back in their arms. All Americans join their families and friends in celebrating their long-awaited return home," Obama said.
Bauer, Fattal, and Shourd had been hiking in northern Iraq in 2009 when they were arrested for straying into Iranian territory, a costly but innocent mistake, according to Livia Leu, the Swiss Ambassador to Iran.
Leu, who assisted in the release of the hikers, told CNN Wednesday, "The border between Iraq and Iran is not marked, so it is not necessarily clear where a road ends or a country starts."