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Middle East peace still a long way off: Brian Keenan

By Claire McNeilly

Published 15/04/2016

Ex-hostage: Brian Keenan
Ex-hostage: Brian Keenan

Former Beirut hostage Brian Keenan has said it will be many decades before there is lasting peace in the Middle East.

The Belfast native also recalled how he got through his horrific kidnapping ordeal in Lebanon "kicking and screaming".

The 65-year-old, who was one of more than 100 people taken hostage in the region during the 1980s and early 1990s, told how he spent four-and-a-half years in a concrete cell.

Often his Islamic Jihad captors beat him and kept him chained and half-naked in solitary confinement.

In an interview to mark the 30th anniversary of his capture, Mr Keenan said the problems in countries such as Syria, Egypt and Turkey would not be fixed with peace agreements.

"I think we're in for 30 years of this," he said."I think that Isis, or whatever it calls itself, will die of its own poison.

"A nation state that doesn't nurture feelings of humanity, love and compassion will wither away of its own poison."

He added: "Unfortunately, it will create a wasteland before that happens."

The academic left Belfast in 1985 to take up a teaching position at Beruit's American University and had initially intended to stay in Lebanon for a couple of years before travelling on to Thailand.

Life for the father-of-two, who later became a household name, irrevocably changed when he was captured by Islamic terrorists on April 11, 1986.

"You didn't know if it was night or day," he told The Irish Voice, adding that he chose to go insane to deal with the constant threat.

Keenan, who is not religious, added that he turned to physical exercise rather than God during his darkest days.

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