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Former Hostage Says Captors Poisoned Him With Arsenic

July 10, 1990

BOSTON (AP) _ Air Force doctors informed former hostage Frank Reed that his captors poisoned him with arsenic during his 44 months in captivity, the former hostage said Monday.

Reed also said that hostage Brian Keenan’s sister had told him in a telephone conversation from Belfast, Northern Ireland, that negotiations toward the Irish educator’s release were ″50 percent finished.″

″I think it’s the most wonderful news I’ve heard since I’ve been home,″ Reed said of Keenan’s possible release. ″Brian and I were mates in the holes, the hideouts. Brian on several occasions tried to intervene to try to stop the beatings that were going on.″

A Shiite source in Beirut, Lebanon, said Iran was pushing hard for the release of a hostage in appreciation for aid it received after the devastating June 21 earthquake.

The Irish Red Cross flew the first Western relief plane into Tehran after the earthquake, in which 40,000 people were killed.

Based on hair and nail samples, Air Force and Justice Department officials believe Reed, 57, was given arsenic over a long period of time and one large dose shortly before he was released April 30, Reed told Boston television station WHDH.

The news made Reed wonder if Keenan may also have been given arsenic.

″Brian was exhibiting the same symptoms that I had of arsenic poisoning, so let us hope that it hasn’t been too severe. Brian and I got in a little trouble over there together and maybe they were giving it to him for the same reasons,″ he said.

Reed speculated that the captors’ goal may have been to subdue the hostages or to make them appear sickly in order to speed negotiations.

Exposure to high levels of arsenic can produce a burning pain in the esophagus and stomach, vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Prolonged exposure can lead to a rapid, feeble pulse and circulatory collapse.

Traces of arsenic are present in water and food, especially seafood.

A spokesman at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland said Reed was released from the hospital on Friday. Neither Reed, the Justice Department nor medical personnel on the base could be reached for comment late Monday.

The hospital reported last month that tests on Reed had found arsenic, but gave no indication of deliberate poisoning.

Hostages held in the Middle East include six Americans, four Britons, two West Germans, two Swiss, an Irishman and an Italian. The longest held is Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press. He was kidnapped March 16, 1985.

Keenan was taken hostage April 11, 1986.

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