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American hostage Robert Levinson died in Iran, family says

Christine Levinson, wife of an ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in March 2007, her son Daniel and her sister Susan arrive at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on December 18, 2007. Levinson's family on Wednesday said he has died. UPI File Photo 
Christine Levinson, wife of an ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in March 2007, her son Daniel and her sister Susan arrive at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on December 18, 2007. Levinson's family on Wednesday said he has died. UPI File Photo  | License Photo

March 25 (UPI) -- The family of Robert Levinson, an American held hostage in Iran, said Wednesday U.S. officials informed them that he has died.

Levinson's family said they did not know how or when he died but only that it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today," his family wrote.

Levinson, a retired Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI agent, private investigator, and part-time CIA consultant, traveled to Kish Island, Iran, in 2007 to investigate cigarette smuggling, the U.S. government and his wife, Christine Levinson, have said.

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During his visit, he met with U.S. fugitive Dawud Salahuddin and Iranian security officials detained them both. Salahuddin said he never again saw Levinson after they were released.

In 2014, Levinson's family sued Iran, accusing the nation of covering up his imprisonment.

The family said in their statement Wednesday they will continue to pursue information about his disappearance.

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"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done," they said. "We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away."

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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., offered condolences to the family while calling for the passage of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act, which aims to bolster programs to address hostage-taking through sanctions and increased resources to return hostages.

Menendez also stated the Iranian regime was "fully responsible" for Bob Levinson's disappearance and death.

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"Bob's imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary but consistent with the behavior of the Iranian regime," he said. "They must be held accountable for their gross human rights abuses and abject cruelty of keeping a father away from his children and grandchildren he will never meet."

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