24 Nov 2009

British hostage's body found after 25 years

5:33 pm on 24 November 2009

The remains of a British hostage who disappeared in Lebanon nearly 25 years ago have been identified. The body of freelance journalist Alec Collett was found buried after a tipoff.

Mr Collett, aged 64 at the time, was kidnapped by a radical Palestinian group who snatched him at gunpoint from a car near Beirut airport in 1985.

He had been commissioned by the UN Relief and Works Agency to write about Palestinian refugee camps.

His abduction came at the height of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, during which dozens of foreigners were kidnapped.

His driver, an Austrian national, was released shortly after, but Mr Collett remained missing. The following year, a militant Palestinian group - the Abu Nidal organisation - claimed to have killed him in retaliation for US air raids on Libya.

A video showing the hanging of a hooded figure said to be Mr Collett was released, but the victim was never officially identified.

Several fruitless searches followed.

Remembered every year by UN staff

The BBC cites reports that the excavation, in a village near the town of Aita al-Foukhar in the eastern Bekaa Valley, followed a tipoff. A team of nine British military and intelligence specialists carried out the search under tight police security.

Every year UN staff remember Mr Collett during a day of solidarity for detained and missing humanitarian workers at the organisation's headquarters in New York.