Terry Anderson, reporter held hostage for six years, dies at 76

Terry Anderson, the American journalist who was the longest-held Western hostage in Lebanon when he was finally released in 1991 by Islamic militants after more than six years of captivity, died Saturday at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, in Hudson Valley. . He was 76 years old.

The cause was apparently complications from recent heart surgery, said his daughter, Sulome Anderson.

Mr. Anderson, Beirut bureau chief for the Associated Press, had just dropped off his tennis partner, an AP photographer, at his home after an early morning tennis match on March 16, 1985, when men armed with guns broke open the door. the door of his car and pushed him into a Mercedes-Benz. The same car had tried to cut him off the day before as he was returning to work from lunch in his seaside apartment.

The kidnappers, identified as Shiite Hezbollah militants from the Islamic Jihad Organization in Lebanon, beat him, blindfolded him and kept him chained in around 20 hideouts for 2,454 days in Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley.

The militants, backed by Iran, indicated they were retaliating against Israel's use of American weapons in previous attacks on Muslim and Druze targets in Lebanon. They had also tried to pressure the Reagan administration to secretly facilitate illegal arms sales to Iran – an embarrassing plan that became known as the Iran-Contra affair because the administration had planned to use the proceeds of the arms sales to secretly subsidize the right Contra Rebels in Nicaragua.

Mr. Anderson was the last of 18 Western hostages released by the kidnappers. After his release, he married his girlfriend, who was pregnant when he was kidnapped, and, for the first time, met his 6-year-old daughter.

Although he was not tortured during his captivity, he said, he was beaten and shackled. He spent about a year, on and off, in solitary confinement, he said.

“There's nothing to hold on to, no way to anchor my mind,” he said after the ordeal. “I try to pray, every day, sometimes for hours. But there is nothing there, just a void. I'm talking to myself, not to God.”

However, he found some consolation in the Bible and added: “The only real defense was to remember that no one could take away my self-respect and dignity: only I could do that.”

Terry Alan Anderson was born on October 27, 1947 in Lorain, Ohio, where his father, Glen, was the village police officer. When he was still young, the family moved to Batavia, in western New York, where his father drove a truck and his mother, Lily (Lunn) Anderson, was a waitress.

After graduating from high school, he was accepted by the University of Michigan and offered a scholarship, but he decided to join the Marines instead. He served five years in Japan, Okinawa and Vietnam as a combat reporter and his final year in Iowa as a recruiter.

After being discharged, he earned degrees in journalism and political science from Iowa State University while working for a local television station.

He worked for The AP in Japan and South Africa before starting a two-and-a-half-year stint in Lebanon in 1983.

After his release, he owned a blues bar in Athens, Ohio, and ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the Ohio state Senate in 2004. He sued Iran for $100 million in damages in federal court and ultimately raised about $26 million from that nation's assets. which had been frozen in the United States. His manna lasted about seven years; filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Mr. Anderson founded a foundation, the Vietnam Children's Fund, with a friend, Marcia Landau, that has built more than 50 schools in Vietnam. He was honorary president of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

He has also taught at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, the University of Kentucky, and Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

In addition to his daughter Sulome, he is survived by his second of three wives, Madeleine Bassil, whom he married in 1982; another daughter, Gabrielle Anderson; one sister, Judy Anderson; and a brother, Jack Anderson.

As tough as captivity was, Mr. Anderson recalled, so was adjusting to what he called “the real world.”

“I had problems and it took me a long time to start dealing with them,” he said. “People ask me, 'Did you pass them?' I don't know! Ask my ex-wife, ask my third ex-wife. I don't know;

“I was harmed far more than I was aware of, than anyone was aware of,” he said.

“It takes as long to recover as time spent in prison,” he added.

Neil MacFarquhar contributed to the reporting.

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