Today In History: Kidnappers Release Terry Anderson
Today in 1991, Lebanese Islamic militants released Terry Anderson, an American journalist they had held captive for 2,454 consecutive days.
Anderson was the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press. He was covering the civil war in Lebanon when he was captured. While leaving a tennis court in west Beirut on March 16, 1985, he was kidnapped. He was taken to a suburban area in south Beirut, where he was to be kept in a dungeon for an ensuing six and a half very, very long years.
He was only one of ninety-two foreigners who were similarly kidnapped during the country’s long-running civil war. Hezbollah was primarily responsible for the abductions. Hezbollah, a Shiite organization founded in 1982 in opposition to Israeli incursions into Lebanon, kidnapped multiple Americans in response to the United States providing Israel with weapons and aid during its assault on Lebanese Muslim and Druze targets in 1982 and 1983. Hezbollah in Lebanon was funded largely by Iran.
Of all the American hostages captured during the war, Anderson was held the longest. His captors hoped that it would help remove America’s military presence in Lebanon.
By 1990, American relations with Iran and Syria, another major player in the Lebanese civil war, were improving. The civil war finally ended when Syria intervened in support of the Lebanese army. Iran leveraged its influence in the region to negotiate the release of most of the hostages in Lebanon in 1991, in order to curry favor with the American government.
When Anderson returned to the United States, he was reunited with his family. He met his daughter Suleme for the first time. Suleme was born three months after Anderson was first kidnapped.
Anderson went on to sue the Iranian state for $100 million in 1999. He accused them of sponsoring his captors. He received a multi-million dollar settlement. Estimates place the sum at around $26 million.
Anderson returned to the U.S. and was reunited with his family, including his daughter Suleme, born three months after his capture. In 1999, he sued the Iranian government for $100 million, accusing it of sponsoring his kidnappers; he received a multi-million dollar settlement.
Anderson wrote a best-selling account of his harrowing experience, titled Den of Lions. After he was released, he taught at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.
He currently lives in Hidden Village in Gainesville, Florida, where he teaches a course on International Journalism at the University of Florida.