Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Journalist Alec Collett's body identified in Lebanon

Alec Collett
Previous searches had failed to turn up information

Human remains found in Lebanon have been confirmed as those of a British journalist kidnapped by Palestinian militants nearly 25 years ago.

The body of Alec Collett was one of two dug up by British experts last week in Bekaa Valley, the Foreign Office said.

The freelance journalist was 64 when he was snatched at gunpoint from a car near Beirut airport in 1985.

The United Nations is to transport the body home. UK embassy staff in Beirut are assisting Mr Collett's family.

The excavation, in a village near the town of Aita al-Foukhar in the eastern Bekaa Valley, followed a tip-off, it has been reported.

A team of nine British military and intelligence specialists carried out the search under tight police security.

Civil war

The abduction, on 25 March 1985, happened after Mr Collett had been commissioned by the UN Relief and Works Agency to write about Palestinian refugee camps.

It came at the height of the 1975-1990 civil war, when dozens of foreigners were kidnapped.

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

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

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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