Den of Lions

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Den of Lions

Excerpts from Den of Lions

Written by Terry Anderson
Published in 1993

"My mind seemed to stall for a few seconds, and by the time I realized what was happening, one of the men was beside the driver's door of my car, yanking it open and pushing his pistol at my head."

The impact of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East has not been restricted to those living there. American journalist Terry Anderson learned firsthand that all people can be targets during times of war. Assigned to cover Beirut, the capitol of Lebanon, for the Associated Press (AP) in 1982 in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion to remove the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from southern Lebanon, Anderson followed the U.S. Marine Corps throughout the country on a peacekeeping mission. He wrote a series of stories about Lebanon's attempts to rebuild itself after the destruction caused by Israel's attack. Anderson grew accustomed to moving freely through checkpoints as a member of the press. He recalled the late fall of 1982 and the early part of 1983 as a time of optimism, when "everyone saw an end to the war, an end finally to the bad times," as he wrote in his memoir Den of Lions.

But soon after Anderson was promoted to chief Middle East correspondent for the AP, violence in Lebanon surged once again. Religious factions within Lebanon fought for political power; the international peacekeeping force changed the focus of its mission and began to act in support of the Lebanese government; and Israeli troops occupied the south of Lebanon as Syrian troops increased from the north. As violence grew, reporters, once treated by all groups as neutral observers, were singled out and harassed according to their nationalities. Sometimes caught in the crossfire of others' battles and sometimes direct targets, journalists were no longer safe. Americans in particular were scorned by the Lebanese, as witnessed by the bombing of the 1983 U.S. embassy in Beirut and the kidnapping of American scholars and journalists.

The Lebanese government collapsed in February 1984 and in March the United States removed its Marines from Lebanon. On March 12, 1985, the United States ordered Americans working for international agencies to leave Beirut. Anderson and other journalists delayed, ignoring the call. Four days later Terry Anderson's life was forever changed. The following excerpts from his book Den of Lions recount his kidnapping and his years in captivity.

Things to remember while reading excerpts from Terry Anderson's Den of Lions:

  • Terry Anderson was born on October 27, 1949, in Ohio, and had served with the U.S. Marines as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War (1954–75).
  • In the early 1980s the activist group Hezbollah received money from Iran to build its strength and to gain influence over the Shiites, a branch of Islam that regards Ali and his descendants as the true successors of Muhammad, in Lebanon in order to wrest political power from the Christians.
  • Shiites in Lebanon were battling mostly with Christian factions, who were friendly with and supported by both Israel and the United States.
  • On March 15, 1985, Anderson mentioned to his news editor that four men in a Mercedes had followed him during his lunch hour. He kept the incident quiet.
  • On March 16, 1985, Terry Anderson was kidnapped. He was held by a terrorist organization for nearly seven years, during which time he was interrogated and treated as a prisoner of war, even though he knew very little information that could help his kidnappers.
  • Anderson was able to communicate with several fellow hostages during his time in captivity. One such hostage was Terry Waite. Waite is a British humanitarian who was in Lebanon to help negotiate the release of four hostages when he was taken hostage himself.

Excerpts from Den of Lions

Beirut. 8 a.m. March 16, 1985

The green Mercedes, sparkling clean in the weak morning sunlight, drifted to a gentle halt in the narrow road, just a few yards up the hill from the graffiti-covered monument to Gamal Abdel Nasser . Don Mell, the young AP photographer I was dropping off at his apartment after our tennis game, had noticed it earlier at the sports club but hadn't mentioned it—it didn't seem important. Now, though, it struck him as odd, especially the curtains drawn over the rear window.

... [T]hree unshaven men threw open the doors and jumped out, each holding a 9mm pistol in his right hand, hanging loosely by his side.

My mind seemed to stall for a few seconds, and by the time I realized what was happening, one of the men was beside the driver's door of my car, yanking it open and pushing his pistol at my head. "Get out," he said fiercely. "I will shoot. I will shoot."

"Okay," I answered quickly. I pulled the keys from the ignition and dropped them between the seats. "Okay, no problem. No problem."

He reached in and pulled the glasses from my face. As I slid out of the seat, half crouched, he put his hand around my shoulders, forcing me to remain bent over.

"Come, come quickly."

I glanced up at Don, just a vague blur on the other side of the car, willing him to run, but not daring to shout the words. He just stood, frozen.

The young man, dark and very Arab-looking, perhaps twenty or twenty-five, pulled me along beside him toward the Mercedes, just four or five yards away, still forcing me to remain half bent.

"Get in. I will shoot," he hissed at me, pushing me into the backseat. "Get down. Get down."

I tried to crouch in the narrow space between the front and back seats. Another young man jumped in the other door and shoved me to the floor, throwing an old blanket over me, then shoving my head and body down with both his feet. I could feel a gun barrel pushing at my neck. "Get down. Get down."

The car lurched into gear and accelerated madly up the hill....


After fifteen or twenty minutes, the car turned off the main highway straight into what seemed to be a garage. A metal door clanged down, cutting off the street noise. The doors were yanked open and hands grabbed at me, pulling me upright, but careful to keep the blanket over my head. There were mutterings in Arabic, short, guttural, incomprehensible.

Someone slipped the blanket away, slipping a dirty cloth around my head at the same time, then wrapping plastic tape around and around. Other hands grabbed at my tennis shoes, yanking them off. ...


"What is your name?" a voice asked, heavily accented.

"Terry Anderson. I am a journalist."

"Your company?"

"The Associated Press. A wire service."

The man seemed uninterested in my answers.


Beirut. April 1985.

Hours, days, nights, weeks. Blank nights. Gray dawn after gray dawn.

An English-speaking man came in today and dictated a short letter to me. At least I know why I've been kidnapped, or at least what the "official" reason is. He was abrupt, but not threatening. Simply gave me a pen and a piece of paper, then told me what to write:

"I am fine. I received your message. You should know that I am a victim of the American policy that favors Israel and which forced the detained persons in Kuwait to do what they did. My freedom is tied to the freedom of the detained over there. The American government still does not care about us. I ask you to do your best to pressure the American government to release the detained people over there because we are very close to being hanged in the case that this term is not met." ...


The days begin to settle into a kind of routine: Sleepless nights, watching the dawn light grow slowly on the ceiling, shifting andturning, trying to ease the stiffness and pain of lying on a bed twenty-fours hours a day. Listen to the roaches, occasionally watch one or two or three, two inches long, crawl slowly up the wall. Hear the stirring and muttering in Arabic as the guards awaken. Food—usually a sandwich of Arabic bread and dry, yellow cheese. Brief trip down the hall to the filthy bathroom. One guard unlocks the chains. Another stands against the wall holding a small automatic pistol with a silencer. Back to the cot. Read the Bible for a while. Lunch—perhaps a bowl of soup, or cold rice with canned vegetables dumped on top. The evenings are sometimes enlivened by short visits from one or two of the young men, sometimes to ask questions in broken English, sometimes just to amuse themselves. Occasionally, one or two will kneel or sit on my chest, poke their guns in my ear or neck, and hiss threats: "You dead. I kill you." [...]


Beirut. April 1990.

All good, but we're still chained to the wall in this dammed room.


I pray a great deal, mostly at night, and read the Bible, in English or French. It helps keep me calm, and able to accept whatever happens.


Beirut. August 1990.

Brian's gone home! And we're back with John. No warning, no indication that something was going to happen. The guards just came in, ordered us to stand up, taped our arms and around our eyes, then dumped us in a car trunk for a ten-minute ride, apparently just a few blocks.

When we were unwrapped in our new abode, another apartment in the southern suburbs of Beirut, John was sitting against the wall, bearded and grinning with relief.

It seems Brian and he had been together, along with Frank Reed, for more than a year. Suddenly, Reed was taken out nearly four months ago; then two days ago, they came for Brian.


The apartment is the same one I was kept in with Fontaine, and again later. The blood mark from beating my head on the wall is still there, a little faded but obvious.

John says Reed was in very bad shape when they were put together with him, and didn't get much better. He had been abused badly, and was being treated with contempt by the guards until John and Brian protested. They said he had gone off his head—believed he had a radio in his head and could talk with the U.S. embassy in East Beirut.

John also said there was another prisoner in the apartment, in the next room, and both he and Brian believed it was Terry Waite. They had communicated sporadically and vaguely with knocks on the wall, but couldn't really exchange information. Both he and Brian were chained on the opposite side of the room from the wall between the two rooms, and could tap on it only during exercise periods.


September 5, 1990. My two thousandth day.

I've established contact with Terry Waite. He is next door, as John and Brian thought. I began by tapping on the wall and, when he tapped back, painstakingly tapped out the series 1-2-3-4- ... to 26. Then, using numbers for the alphabet (1 = a, 2 = b, and so on) I tapped out our names. It took a while, but he caught on. I spent all one night tapping out a summary of all the news: Brian's release, Frank's release; the comments and promises of Iran, Syria, and others on hostages over the past year. Then the world news: the Berlin Wall's falling, communism's demise in eastern Europe, free elections in the Soviet Union, work toward multiracial government in South Africa. All the incredible things that have happened since he was taken nearly three years ago. He thought I was crazy.

He's been in isolation all that time, without even a scrap of news.


Baalbek, Lebanon. December 4, 1991.

The 2,454th day, and the last. The two new subchiefs came in this morning to say that I would be going home tonight. They talked with me awhile about various things. Strangely, they seemed mostly concerned with justifying themselves, and the last seven years. They said that their group now realized that this had all been a mistake, and they had gotten little out of it. They knew that the release last year of their brothers in Kuwait, the main goal they'd had in the beginning and for all those years, had nothing to do with the hostages they had held so long. "This tactic [kidnapping] is not useful. We will not do it again," one of them said. "We are not giving up. But we will use other means."

He did not explain what that meant, and I was not interested enough to pursue the subject.


It's dark outside now. They always prefer to wait for darkness to fall before making any move. The door opens. Several guards come in. I'm already dressed—I put on my new clothes two hours ago. Mahmoud says, as he has so many times, "Stand up."

No tape this time. Just the blindfold. The new subchiefs are there. One of them hands me a small bouquet. Half a dozen carnations. "Give this to your wife, and tell her we're sorry."

Someone takes my arm, guides me through the door, outside, and into a car. Another Mercedes, just like the one they forced me into so long ago. [...]

The car stops. I'm pulled out. Someone puts his hand on my shoulder. "I'm a Syrian colonel. You're free."

What happened next ...

On December 4, 1991, Terry Anderson was released, the last of the American hostages to be freed in Lebanon. Greeted by his love, Madeleine, and their six-year-old daughter Sulome, Anderson regained his life. After a recuperation period spent on the island of Antigua, Anderson resumed a "normal" existence. About his terrible years in captivity, Anderson concluded, as German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900) once wrote, "That which does not destroy me, makes me stronger."

Following his release, Anderson eagerly sought out new opportunities. He took a professorship at Ohio University in Athens, from which he retired in 2002. He opened a restaurant in Athens called the Blue Gator and bought a 200-acre horse ranch. He also married Madeleine on April 18, 1993. And in 2004 he ran for a seat in the Ohio senate. His goal: to be remembered as more than "the guy who was kidnapped," as he told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Did you know ...

  • Throughout Anderson's captivity the American government and other international organizations tried to secure the release of the American hostages. The American government's attempts to free American hostages even included a secret arms deal with Iran in 1986, but no American hostages were released from Lebanon between 1986 and 1989.
  • The Shiite group Hezbollah, which was responsible for Anderson's kidnapping, hoped to establish Lebanon as an Islamic state.
  • Anderson attributed his survival in captivity to the Bible and to writing poetry.
  • While Anderson emerged from captivity in relative good health, some of the other American hostages suffered permanent nerve damage and hearing loss. One hostage had a dented skull from torture endured in captivity.

Consider the following ...

  • The American government refused to negotiate directly with Anderson's kidnappers. It is the policy of the American government not to give in to terrorist demands. Is this policy valid? Based on what happened to Anderson, explain why such a policy should stand or why it should be revised.
  • Anderson realized that life in Lebanon was growing increasingly dangerous in the months before his capture. What was Anderson's rationale for staying in such a violent, chaotic area? Offer specific reasons why Anderson might have chosen to stay in a region that was so unsafe to Americans.
  • Should journalists be able to move freely throughout areas of conflict? Consider how a journalist's job might be compromised if he/she is not allowed access to firsthand information.

For More Information


Anderson, Terry. Den of Lions. New York: Crown, 1993.


Bugeja, Michael J. "Terry Anderson and The Truth." Editor & Publisher (June 26, 2000): p. 18.

"Delivered from Evil." Time (December 16, 1991): p. 16.

Gersh, Debra. "Journalists Recall the Allure of Beirut." Editor & Publisher (April 6, 1991): p. 9.

Smolowe, Jill. "Lives in Limbo." Time (December 16, 1991): p. 18.

"Terry Anderson Seeks Legacy of Rural Public Servant Over Foreign Hostage." Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) (October 18, 2004).

Web Sites

Congressional Record. "Terry Anderson Begins Sixth Year of Captivity." (Senate—March 20, 1990), p. S2709. (accessed on June 24, 2005).

Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918– 1970): The longtime president of Egypt and champion of Arab causes.