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Terry Anderson, journalist held hostage in Lebanon for six years, dies at 76

Veteran journalist Terry Anderson, who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon during the mid-1980s to early 1990s, died Sunday at the age of 76. Photo by Jason Szenes/EPA
Veteran journalist Terry Anderson, who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon during the mid-1980s to early 1990s, died Sunday at the age of 76. Photo by Jason Szenes/EPA

April 21 (UPI) -- Terry Anderson, an American journalist who was held captive by Islamic militants in Lebanon for more than six years before being released in 1991, has died, according to his daughter. He was 76.

Anderson died Sunday at his Greenwood Lake, N.Y., home, his daughter, Sulome Anderson, told CNN in a statement.

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"Though my father's life was marked by extreme suffering during his time as a hostage in captivity, he found a quiet, comfortable peace in recent years," she said.

She told The New York Times that the cause of death was complications from a recent heart surgery.

Anderson was The Associated Press' Beirut bureau chief when he was kidnapped by gunmen on March 16, 1985, as he was dropping off AP photographer Don Mell at his apartment following a tennis match.

His abduction came amid a series of Western individuals in the country being taken hostage by the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad Organization.

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After being held captive for 2,455 days, Anderson was released, making him the last American held hostage at that time in Lebanon to be released and the longest hostage held.

On being released, he was taken to Damascus, Syria, where he thanked the thousands of people he didn't know and didn't know him who had been praying for his release and that of the other hostages.

"Your support, your prayers were important," he said, UPI reported at the time. "They worked, they made a big difference, they made a difference to us through a very dark time."

He attributed his ability to survive those six years, nine months in captivity to his companions, faith and his "stubbornness."

"You just do what you have to do," he said. "You wake up every day and you summon up the energy from somewhere, even when you think you haven't got it, and you get through the day, and you do it, day after day after day.

"And it works."

Born in Lorain, Ohio, Anderson was a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran who had worked for AP since the mid-1970s. He had worked for the news agency in Detroit and Louisville in the United States and internationally in Tokyo and Johannesburg.

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At the time of his abduction, he had worked in Lebanon about two years as AP's Beirut bureau chief and chief Middle East correspondent.

"Through his life and his work, Terry Anderson reminded us that journalism is a dangerous business and foreign correspondents, in particular, take great personal risk to keep the public informed," Emily Wilkins, president of the national Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the national Press Club Journalism Institute, said Sunday in a joint statement.

"Years after his ordeal Mr. Anderson continued to suffer from PTSD resulting from long periods of isolation and brutal treatment at the hands of his captors."

After his release, he was granted a fellowship at Columbia University by the Freedom Forum during which he wrote Den of Lions about his years being held hostage. His memoir was published in 1993.

He also spent years teaching journalism at Syracuse University, Ohio University and the Columbia School of Journalism, among many others. He also founded the Vietnam Children's Fund.

Anderson was once considered the longest held U.S. journalist, a dubious title the National Press Club said has since been passed on to Austin Tice, who has been held in Syria for nearly 12 years.

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On his release, Anderson was asked by reporters on how he felt about being dubbed the longest-held hostage in Lebanon.

"It's an honor I would gladly have given up a long time ago," he said with a smile.

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