Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

UK team 'finds remains of kidnapped Briton' in Lebanon

Alec Collett
Mr Collett was 64 when he was kidnapped at gunpoint

Human remains have been found by a team searching for a British journalist kidnapped by Palestinian militants nearly 25 years ago in Lebanon.

The Foreign Office confirmed British experts excavating a site in the Bekaa Valley had dug up two bodies.

One of them is undergoing DNA tests to determine whether it is Alec Collett, who was abducted in 1985.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that unidentified human remains have been recovered."

He added: "The operation is continuing."

The other body is said to be that of an unidentified man.

Civil war

Mr Collett was a freelance journalist commissioned by the UN Relief and Works Agency to write about Palestinian refugee camps.

Lebanese soldier stands guard as search team works
The search uncovered two bodies

He was snatched at gunpoint from a car near Beirut airport. He was then aged 64.

His driver, an Austrian national, was released shortly after, but Mr Collett remained missing.

The abduction, on 25 March 1985, came at the height of the 1975-1990 civil war, when dozens of foreigners were kidnapped.

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.

We are in touch with the family and they will be the first to know if there are any new developments
UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman

Several searches for Mr Collett followed but failed to turn up his body or clues to his whereabouts.

This latest search, in a village near the town of Aita al-Foukhar in the eastern Bekaa Valley, began after a tip-off, it has been reported.

The team of nine British military and intelligence specialists has been working under tight police security.

A spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) confirmed there was new forensic information.

"New remains have been found and are being identified. We are in touch with the family and they will be the first to know if there are any new developments," he said.

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.

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