Terry Anderson, AP reporter held captive for years, has died

LOS ANGELES — Terry Anderson, the Associated Press globetrotter who became one of America’s longest-held hostages after being snatched from a street in war-torn Lebanon in 1985 and held for nearly seven years, has died at the age of 76.

Anderson, who described his kidnapping and torturous capture by Islamic militants in his best-selling 1993 memoir “Den of Lions,” died Sunday at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, his daughter Sulome Anderson said.

The cause of death was unknown, although his daughter said Anderson had recently undergone heart surgery.

After returning to the United States in 1991, Anderson led an itinerant life, giving public speeches, teaching journalism at several leading universities and, at various times, operating a blues bar, Cajun restaurant, horse ranch and fine dining restaurant.

He also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, won millions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets after a federal court concluded the country played a role in his capture, then lost most of it through bad investments. In 2009 he filed for bankruptcy.

When Anderson retired from the University of Florida in 2015, he settled on a small horse farm in a quiet, rural part of Northern Virginia that he had discovered while camping with friends. `

“I live in the country and the weather here is pretty nice and quiet and it’s a nice place, so I’m doing well,” he said with a chuckle during a 2018 interview with The Associated Press.

In 1985, he became one of several Westerners kidnapped by members of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah during a time of war that had plunged Lebanon into chaos.

After his release, he returned to a hero’s welcome at AP headquarters in New York.

As the AP’s chief Middle East correspondent, Anderson has reported for several years on the rising violence that has gripped Lebanon as the country wages war with Israel while Iran funds militant groups trying to overthrow its government.

On March 16, 1985, a day off, he had taken a break to play tennis with former AP photographer Don Mell and was dropping Mell off at his house when armed kidnappers dragged him from his car.

He said he was likely targeted because he was one of the few Westerners still in Lebanon and because his role as a journalist aroused suspicion among Hezbollah members.

“Because in their terms, people who ask questions in uncomfortable and dangerous places must be spies,” he told the Virginia newspaper The Review of Orange County in 2018.

What followed was nearly seven years of brutality, during which he was beaten, chained to a wall, threatened with death, often held with guns to his head, and often held in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Anderson was the longest-held of a number of Western hostages Hezbollah had abducted over the years, including Terry Waite, the former envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had arrived to try to negotiate his release.

According to his and other hostages’ accounts, he was also their most hostile prisoner. He continually demanded better food and treatment, debated religion and politics with his captors, and taught other hostages sign language and where to hide messages so they could communicate privately.

He managed to maintain a quick wit and a biting sense of humor throughout his long ordeal. On his last day in Beirut, he called the leader of his captors to his room to tell him that he had just heard a mistaken radio message saying he had been released and was in Syria.

“I said, ‘Mahmound, listen to this, I’m not here. I’m gone, darlings. I’m on my way to Damascus.’ And we both laughed,” he told Giovanna DellÓrto, author of “AP Foreign Correspondents in Action: World War II to the Present.”

He later learned that his release was delayed when a third party, whom his captors planned to extradite him, left for a tryst with his mistress and they had to find someone else.

Anderson’s humor often hid the PTSD he admitted he suffered from years later.

“The AP got some British experts in hostage decompression, clinical psychiatrists, to advise my wife and myself and they were very helpful,” he said in 2018. “But one of the problems I had was that I did not sufficiently recognize the damage. that was done.

“So when people ask me, ‘Are you over it?’ Well, I do not know. No not really. It’s there. I don’t think about it much these days, it’s not central to my life. But it is there.”

At the time of his kidnapping, Anderson was engaged and his future wife was six months pregnant with their daughter Sulome.

The couple married shortly after his release but divorced a few years later, and although they remained on friendly terms, Anderson and his daughter were estranged for years.

“I love my father very much. My father has always loved me. I just didn’t know because he couldn’t show me,” Sulome Anderson told the AP in 2017.

Father and daughter reconciled following the publication of her critically acclaimed 2017 book, “The Hostage’s Daughter,” in which she recounted traveling to Lebanon to confront and ultimately forgive one of her father’s kidnappers.

“I think she’s done some extraordinary things, gone through a very difficult personal journey, but also accomplished a pretty important piece of journalism in the process,” Anderson said. “She is now a better journalist than I ever was.”

Terry Alan Anderson was born on October 27, 1947. He spent his early childhood in the small town of Vermillion, Ohio, on Lake Erie, where his father was a police officer.

After graduating high school, he turned down a scholarship to the University of Michigan in favor of enlisting in the Marines, where he rose to the rank of staff sergeant while seeing combat during the Vietnam War.

After returning home, he enrolled at Iowa State University, where he graduated with a double major in journalism and political science and soon after went to work for the AP. He reported from Kentucky, Japan and South Africa before arriving in Lebanon in 1982, just as the country was descending into chaos.

“It was actually the most fascinating job I’ve ever had in my life,” he told The Review. “It was intense. There is a war going on – it was very dangerous in Beirut. A brutal civil war, and it lasted about three years before I was kidnapped.”

Anderson was married and divorced three times. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Gabrielle Anderson, from his first marriage.