US journalist Terry Anderson, held in Lebanon hostage crisis for nearly 7 years, dead at 76 | CNN (2024)

US journalist TerryAnderson, held in Lebanon hostage crisis for nearly 7 years, dead at 76 | CNN (1)

Terry Anderson, who was the longest held American hostage in Lebanon, grins with his 6-year-old daughter Sulome, on Dec. 4, 1991, as they leave the US Ambassador's residence in Damascus, Syria, following Anderson's release.


Terry Anderson, the former Mideast correspondent for The Associated Press who was kidnapped in 1985 and held captive for nearly seven years in Lebanon, has died at 76, his daughter told CNN.

Anderson died on Sunday at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, according to his daughter, Sulome Anderson.

“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 in a statement to CNN.

The cause of death was unknown, though his daughter told the AP he had recently had heart surgery.

The AP journalist worked out of Kentucky, Tokyo, South Africa and ultimately Lebanon, after he volunteered to go there in 1982 following Israel’s invasion as the news agency’s chief Middle East correspondent.

Anderson covered Lebanon’s civil war for The AP for three years before his capture in 1985. He was released in 1991, as the 16-year civil war ended.

US journalist TerryAnderson, held in Lebanon hostage crisis for nearly 7 years, dead at 76 | CNN (2)

Wearing a sweatshirt printed with his picture, former hostage Terry Anderson greets happy colleagues, on Dec. 10, 1991, at The Associated Press headquarters in New York, as he walks with his arm around fiancee Madeleine Bassil.

Anderson’s autobiography “Den of Lions,” chronicled his time in captivity.

“You’re sorry, sorry for your family, sorry you were dumb enough to get captured,”Anderson told CNN once about his capture. “There’s always a certain amount of guilt even though it’s irrational, it’s there anyway. So, you just have to get from hour to hour,” he said.

“I know he would choose to be remembered not by his very worst experience, but through his humanitarian work with the Vietnam Children’s Fund, the Committee to Protect Journalists, homeless veterans and many other incredible causes,” his daughter said.

In a 2016 interview, Anderson told CNN that he didn’t think about his captivity often.

“I had my life back. And it was turning into a very, very good life,” he said.

Anderson was born in Ohio, moving at age 6 to a chicken farm in upstate New York. After graduating high school, Anderson joined the Marines and went overseas almost immediately – first to Japan, then Vietnam.

That experience, as a combat correspondent, shaped Anderson before he left the military at age 23 as a staff sergeant. He’d also discovered his calling: journalism.

Heading to Iowa for Marine recruiting duty, Anderson enrolled and graduated from Iowa State University, took a job at a radio station and worked briefly for The Associated Press.

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on October 10, 2023. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images/File Related article American journalist Evan Gershkovich marks one year in Russian detention

Many foreign nationals, including Anderson’s first wife and then-young daughter, had evacuated Lebanon due to the sprawling war there in 1983, but Anderson stuck it out.

He even found love again in a Lebanese woman named Madeleine Bassil. She was six months pregnant with their child when he kissed her goodbye the morning of Saturday, March 16, and headed out to play tennis. Amid all the dangers he chronicled daily, Anderson persuaded himself he was safe.

“That’s what got me kidnapped. Arrogance,” he later told CNN.

Armed men grabbed him on a Beirut street, threw him into the trunk of a car and whisked him away.

His autobiography calls his next home the “Den of Lions.” In fact, it was many dens as he was moved regularly, presumably around Lebanon. Each place, he had shackles, chains, and blindfolds so he couldn’t look his captors in the eye.

“Some of them were really bad, some of them were evil,” Anderson said of his guards. “Some … were psychopathic.”

On the outside, the man whose AP byline had graced newspapers worldwide became a story himself. Government officials waged fruitless attempts to free him and others, the most high-profile example being the Iran-Contra affair.

On December 4, 1991, he was taken from his holding room shortly after 6 a.m., handed to Syrian officers, and driven to Damascus.

“What kept me going on?” he said immediately after tasting freedom. “Well, my companions. I was lucky enough to have other people with me most of the time. My faith. Stubbornness, I guess.”

“And you just do what you have to do. 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,” he said.

US journalist Terry Anderson, held in Lebanon hostage crisis for nearly 7 years, dead at 76 | CNN (2024)


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