Terry Anderson: US journalist held hostage in Lebanon for years dies at 76

A man in glasses holds his hands up as he walks through a door
Anderson entering a press conference in Syria after his release in 1991 [Reuters]

Terry Anderson, a US journalist held hostage for nearly seven years during Lebanon's civil war, has died aged 76.

Anderson was the chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) when he was captured by Islamist militants in 1985 during what became known as the Lebanon hostage crisis.

He died at his home in Greenwood Lake, New York, following complications from heart surgery, his daughter said.

Sulome Anderson said he had found peace in recent years after the ordeal.

"He never liked to be called a hero, but that's what everyone persisted in calling him," she said.

"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.

"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."

Louis Boccardi, who ran AP during Anderson's captivity, also remembered him as a "hero".

"The word 'hero' gets tossed around a lot but applying it to Terry Anderson just enhances it," Mr Boccardi said.

Anderson, who had seen combat during his service in the US Marines during the Vietnam War, was abducted in Beirut on 16 March, 1985.

He had just finished playing a game of tennis during a day off when gunmen dragged him into a car and sped away.

His sister Peggy Say, who died in 2015, fiercely advocated for the release of her brother and his fellow captives.

The majority of the more than 100 held between 1982 and 1992 were from the US and western Europe, including Church of England envoy Terry Waite who was taken hostage by the group holding Anderson when negotiations broke down on 20 January 1987. Waite was freed in 1991 after 1,763 days.

Anderson passed on news of the outside world to Waite, who had spent years in solitary confinement, by developing a system of tapping on the walls between their cells.

Both men endured being chained, beaten and threatened. Anderson - who spent much of the time blindfolded and was forced to sleep on a thin, dirty mattress on the floor - later recalled that he "almost went insane", and credited his Catholic faith for saving him.

He was eventually released in 1991 as the civil war ended - following 2,454 days in captivity which made him the longest-held Western hostage.

Anderson met his daughter, who was born shortly after his abduction, for the first time when she was six years old.

After his release, Anderson taught journalism at various US colleges including Columbia University in New York before retiring in 2015.

Anderson also struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, AP reported, and through his poor investments, lost millions of dollars that he had won in frozen Iranian assets as a result of his ordeal.

He also wrote a best-selling autobiography, Den of Lions, detailing his time in captivity.