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Former Hostage Taker Of US Diplomats Dies Of Coronavirus In Iran

Former hostage taker of US diplomats Hossein Sheikholeslam. FILE PHOTO

Former Iranian ambassador to Syria and a hostage-taker of U.S. diplomats, Hossein Sheikholeslam, died Thursday from a Covid19 infection, local news outlets report.

An advisor to the Islamic Republic Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, 68-year-old Sheikholeslam was one of the leaders of the so-called "Muslim Student Followers of Imam's Line," who took 52 U.S. diplomats hostage, on November 4, 1979, and released them after 444 days.

Sheikholeslam studied at the University of California at Berkeley before the Iranian revolution and later interrogated U.S. Embassy staff members during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.

Tested positive for the novel coronavirus two days ago, Sheikholeslam was taken to Masih Daneshvari hospital in Tehran, where all Iranian authorities infected with Covid-19 are treated.

Sheikholeslam's death was announced a day after the advisor to the speaker of parliament, Hossein Abdollahian, had insisted that he was recovering.

Meanwhile, local media report that an elected representative of Tehran to Majles (Islamic parliament), Fatemeh Rahbar, is in a serious condition after contracting coronavirus.

At the time of his death, Sheikholeslam was the deputy of the international affairs at the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought.

Before going to Damascus as Tehran's Ambassador, Sheikholeslam served for seventeen years as the Islamic Republic Foreign Ministry deputy for political affairs.

Eight percent of the Islamic Republic's parliament has been infected with the disease, as well as the country's deputy health minister and one of the deputy presidents, Masoumeh Ebtekar. Still the government insists only just over 100 people have died of the infection

Ms. Ebtekar was also among the leaders of hostage-takers in 1979, after the downfall of Iran's pro-West king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Known as "Sister Mary" among the U.S. hostages, Ebtekar acted as the interpreter during the 444-day crisis.