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1990: Irish hostage released in Lebanon

VIDEO : Keenan released after a compromise

The Irish hostage, Brian Keenan, has been released in Beirut by his Islamic kidnappers after more than four years in captivity.

They handed Mr Keenan over to Syrian officials at 2100 local time.

He is being taken by road to Damascus where the Irish ambassador, Declan Connolly, is waiting to meet him.

Belfast-born Mr Keenan, 39, holds a UK as well as an Irish passport.

He was an English teacher at the American University of Beirut when he was abducted in April 1986.

Mr Keenan's two sisters, Elaine Spence and Brenda Gillham, are flying to Damascus with the Irish Foreign Minister, Gerry Collins.

The release of Brian Keenan is being credited to negotiation by Iran on behalf of Ireland with the kidnappers in the Lebanon - a group calling itself Islamic Dawn. According to the Foreign Office, Mr Keenan was held by the same Hezbollah group holding Terry Waite and John McCarthy.

The Iranians were also instrumental in gaining freedom for Americans Robert Polhill and Frank Reed in April.

Last month a report by the official Iranian news agency IRNA raised false hopes that Mr Keenan's release was imminent.

Earlier today it seemed hopes would be dashed again after a deadline announced by a senior Iranian official passed with no sign of the Irishman being set free.

Mr Keenan is expected to be handed over to the Irish foreign minister by his Syrian counterpart at a ceremony in Damascus on Saturday morning.

His release leaves around 12 Westerners held in Lebanon.

They include three Britons - Terry Waite, John McCarthy and Jackie Mann - and six Americans.

Campaigners for the British hostages are urging the British Government to follow Dublin's lead and foster better relations with Iran.

Iran's ambassador to Britain was recalled last year after the controversy surrounding the publication last year of Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses".


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