Two American journalists are heading home from North Korea after former US leader Bill Clinton won their release from custody.Euna Lee and Laura Ling left on the same plane as the ex-president, whose surprise mission secured a pardon for the pair from the communist country’s leader Kim Jong-il. The women had been convicted of entering North Korea illegally. The US says North Korea requested Clinton’s visit and the Obama administration granted its approval only after Pyongyang agreed in advance that the journalists would be freed and there would be no linkage to the nuclear issue. The White House says Barack Obama’s National Security Team briefed Clinton before the trip described by a presidential adviser as a “private humanitarian mission.” The journalists were arrested in March for illegally crossing the border from China. Sentenced to 12 years hard labour, it took the highest-level US visit to North Korea in nearly a decade to win their freedom.