Hostage heads back to scene

FORMER Beirut hostage Terry Waite has returned to the city where he was held captive in the 1980s.Mr Waite, who lives in Hartest, Suffolk, yesterday headed off to Beirut – his first trip back since his 1992 release after five years as a hostage.

FORMER Beirut hostage Terry Waite has returned to the city where he was held captive in the 1980s.

Mr Waite, who lives in Hartest, Suffolk, yesterday headed off to Beirut – his first trip back since his 1992 release after five years as a hostage.

He said he would be interested to meet his captors, but thought a reunion was unlikely, as an American bounty of one million dollars remained on their heads.

Mr Waite was returning to the city to highlight the 20th anniversary of the charity Y Care International, which works with underprivileged children in Beirut and other conflict zones around the world.

Asked how he would feel to return to the city where he was held in isolation for so long, the former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury told BBC Radio 4: "It will be interesting. Lebanon has changed dramatically since I was there.

"I have memories of a city in ruins and I gather it has been rebuilt. I won't know my reaction until that plane touches down and I appreciate what it is like to be back on Lebanese soil.''

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He said he would not be trying to trace the locations where he was held or speak to his former captors.

But he added: "I wouldn't mind meeting them. I think it is highly unlikely because I understand the Americans put a ransom on their heads of one million dollars.

"It would be very interesting to see where they are all these years later.''

Mr Waite, who is the founder and president of Y Care, was also visiting the charity's projects in east Jerusalem and Gaza.

He also drew parallels between the anarchy of 1980s Lebanon and the situation created by the US-UK invasion of Iraq last year.

"I have always regarded that war as a mistake, because I believe that a dictator, by the very nature of the fact that he is a dictator, holds down the disparate groups in the country by force," he said.

"If you remove him quickly and suddenly, the disparate groups spring up and inevitably you get conflict, as we are seeing in Iraq.

"Also, you will get the growth of extremism and encouragement for terrorists.

"All those things are inevitable and I do see a parallel between what was happening in Lebanon years ago and what is happening in Iraq.

"All of this is related to the failure of the West to find and support an effective resolution to the long-standing conflict in the Middle East, and that has to be tackled.''

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