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Brian Hook stands with Xiyue Wang in Zurich today. Photo: State Department via AP

Brian Hook, the State Department special representative for Iran, boarded a military plane at Andrews Air Force Base Friday night and flew to Zurich, where Saturday he swapped an Iranian scientist for an American student who'd been captive in Iran.

The latest: Iranian officials handed over Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, 38, detained in Tehran since 2016 on what the U.S. says are false charges, for scientist Massoud Soleimani, who faced a federal trial in Georgia.

A senior administration official told me how it went down:

  • National security adviser Robert O'Brien had worked on the case in his previous job as the State Department's chief hostage negotiator.
  • The final flurry happened over the past few weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo learned from the Justice Department that Soleimani was about to be released. Pompeo told Hook: "We may be able to move on this case. Let's reach out and see."
  • Iran, convulsed by what the N.Y. Times calls its "worst unrest in 40 years," has faced international condemnation for a crackdown that the U.S. says has killed at last hundreds.
  • After the swap, Hook and Wang flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Hook was to return soon. Wang will follow when doctors approve.

Behind the scenes: As soon as the swap happened, administration officials called the families of other Americans held in Iran to share the news, and tell them that they're still working on their cases.

  • What they're saying: The official said President Trump has made a huge priority of getting American hostages home, and added that this was done with "no sanctions released, no pallets of cash, no change in policy."

Go deeper: U.S. graduate student released from Iran

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Go deeper

30 mins ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest later Saturday, per AP.