NEW YORK – A former editor and correspondent with The Associated Press, Gerald LaBelle, 76, died late Monday at a hospital in Brooklyn, New York. The former editor is said to have spent years covering tumultuous events in the Middle East. These events included the bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon’s civil war and the kidnapping of his own boss Terry Anderson.
LaBelle’s wife Eileen Alt Powell, who was also a former AP reporter and has said to have covered the fighting in Lebanon told the reporters that LaBelle was suffering from pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from several years.
The news channels reported that LaBelle was named news editor in Beirut in 1983 following he joined the AP in 1968. LaBelle was working with the AP in March 1985 when Islamic militants kidnapped then chief Middle East correspondent for the AP, Anderson, from the streets.
“It was a time when journalists were frequently targeted, but LaBelle never balked at the danger or the incredible workload of covering Lebanon’s travails,” said Anderson, who was freed after seven years in captivity.
“G.G. and Eileen were sent together to Beirut in the midst of the long civil war. They were covering an airplane hijacking at the airport before they’d done more than drop their bags at the Commodore Hotel,” Anderson said in an email. “The two were a dynamite pair.”
While LaBelle was working in the Middle East, he covered events like Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the aftermath of the September 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian militants.
Besides this, several other stories that LaBelle covered during his tenure at the AP also included Iran-Iraq War and Palestinian clashes with Israel. A report says that LaBelle earlier was hit by shrapnel when he was watching militiamen fighting in the streets.