Terry Anderson, AP Reporter Held Hostage for 7 Years, Dies at 76

The Middle East correspondent was abducted in Lebanon and held hostage by Islamic militants

A man in the center stands triumphantly in front of microphones, arms in the air. He and the others in the photo have light-toned skin. He wears a white sweater with the sleeves rolled up.
Terry Anderson raises his arms in triumph at a press conference after being released from a Lebanese terrorist organization, under which he was held hostage for almost seven years. (Photo by David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson, who was held hostage after being kidnapped on the streets of Lebanon by Hezbollah in 1985 and held hostage for seven years, has died, his daughter Sulome told the AP. He was 76 years old.

Anderson wrote about being abducted and tortured by Islamic militants in his 1993 memoir “Den of Lions.” The book was a bestseller. While captive, he was chained and beaten, threatened with death and often put in solitary confinement. Following his return to the United States, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

He died due to complications from a recent heart surgery, his daughter told the AP.

“He never liked to be called a hero, but that’s what everyone persisted in calling him,” daughter Sulome Anderson said. “I saw him a week ago and my partner asked him if he had anything on his bucket list, anything that he wanted to do. He said, ‘I’ve lived so much and I’ve done so much. I’m content.’”

“Terry was deeply committed to on-the-ground eyewitness reporting and demonstrated great bravery and resolve, both in his journalism and during his years held hostage,” AP senior vice president/executive editor Julie Pace said in a statement. “We are so appreciative of the sacrifices he and his family made as the result of his work.”

A man with a beard stands posing for a photo. He has light-toned skin. His T-shirt reads "Hotel Commodore, Lebanon."
Terry Anderson was the Associated Press’ Beirut bureau chief when he was kidnapped on 1985. He was held captive by Islamic militants for nearly seven years. (Photo by Maher Attar/Sygma via Getty Images)

Anderson was taken captive while servicing as the AP’s chief Middle East correspondent, covering violence in Lebanon as it was at war with Israel and Iran funded militant group’s seeking to topple Lebanon’s government. He later told a Virginia newspaper that he believed he was taken because he was suspected by Hezbollah, due to his work as a journalist, of being a spy.

He was known to be the most hostile of his captors’ prisoners, fighting for better treatment and helping his fellow hostages learn sign language to privately communicate.

After his captivity, Anderson gave speeches, taught journalism and ran a blues bar, a horse ranch and multiple restaurants over the years. He won millions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets due to a federal court ruling that Iran had played a role in his capture, but he lost most of that money to bad investments and filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

A newsroom with a large banner reading "Terry... Free!" One person hangs the sign while others work around the room.
Employees at Associated Press headquarters hang a banner in the newsroom as they wait for freed hostage Terry Anderson on Dec. 4, 1991 in New York City. Former AP Beirut bureau chief Terry Anderson, was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985 and was held for 2,454 days by Hezbollah militants. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

The journalist retired from teaching at the University of Florida in 2015 and moved to a small horse farm in northern Virginia. In his younger years, he also served in the Marines and fought in the Vietnam War. Before covering the Middle East, he also reported from Kentucky, Japan and South Africa.

His daughter Sulome wrote about their relationship in her 2017 book, “The Hostage’s Daughter.”

“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,” Sulome said in a statement. “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.”

Along with Sulome, he is also survived by daughter Gabrielle Anderson, sister Judy Anderson and brother Jack Anderson.

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