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Lackawanna family flees besieged Yemen city

A leader in Lackawanna’s Yemeni community has become a key figure in an emerging story about dozens of Americans trapped in the crossfire of warring parties in Yemen, CNN and other media outlets reported Monday.

Muna Munassar, the former executive director of ACCESS of Western New York, an Arab-American community center in Lackawanna, finally was able to board a CNN-chartered boat to go from Aden, Yemen to the African country of Djibouti over the weekend, along with nine family members.

She had gone to Yemen to help care for her now-1-year-old grandson, but she and other family members had been trapped for weeks in Aden, a Yemen seaport city that has been besieged by the fighting. Hers and other American families were hemmed in by the Houthi forces to the north and the Gulf of Aden to the south, according to CNN.

All 10 Munassar family members have reached Djibouti safely, her sons in Lackawanna learned over the weekend.

“I want to say she’s safe, but she’s still stuck,” Adel, one of her sons, said from his Lackawanna home Monday morning. “They told her she could be there another three to six months.”

Muna Munassar has become sort of a spokeswoman for the trapped American families.

“My son served in the Army for four years,” she told CNN in a featured story that aired late Sunday and Monday. “In Iraq. He served because we love our country. As we should. Now look at us?”

The issue is whether it is too dangerous for U.S. authorities to evacuate the American nationals.

“We have one of the branches of al Qaida that’s especially active,” Christina Higgins, the U.S. deputy chief of mission, told CNN. “There’s the Houthis, neither of these two groups friendly to U.S. citizens. We’ve had to weigh very, very carefully what is the safest way, the best way for us to help them.”