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20-01-1987

Terry Waite disappears

On this day, British negotiator Terry Waite disappears while attempting to win freedom for Western hostages held in Lebanon. In 1981, Waite, special envoy of the archbishop of Canterbury, secured the release of missionaries detained in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution. He also extracted British hostages from Libya in 1985 and even succeeded in releasing American hostages from Lebanon in 1986. A total of 10 captives had been released as a result of Waite's efforts before radical Shiite Muslims seized him during a return mission to Beirut on January 20, 1987. Shortly before his capture, it was revealed that he had aided U.S. military official Oliver North in his covert arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. The radical Shiites, deeply distrustful of the American military, likely targeted him for kidnapping in response. After 1,763 days in captivity, Waite was finally released in November 1991 after protracted negotiations.