Armed robber holds hostage in a bank in Lebanon, demands savings

Members of Lebanese police and civil defence secure the area outside a bank in Beirut, Lebanon [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

According to a security official, a man armed with a shotgun has taken hostages in a bank in Beirut, the capital of crisis-stricken Lebanon. He is threatening to light himself on fire until he receives his trapped savings.

The man entered a Federal Bank branch in Beirut's Hamra area on Thursday while carrying a gasoline can. According to the official, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions, he was holding six or seven bank employees hostage.

Three warning shots were also fired, according to the official. According to local media, he has approximately $200,000 in the bank.

Army personnel, police officials from the country's Internal Security Forces, and intelligence agents surrounded the area as authorities attempted to talk with the individual.

The man's brother, who was also present, told the Associated Press that his sibling was attempting to withdraw funds to pay for his father's medical bills and other family obligations.

Atef al-Sheikh Hussein told the news agency, "My brother is not a scoundrel; he is a decent individual." He gives others what he has taken from his pocket.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reported from outside a Beirut bank that banks in Lebanon, which is experiencing the most significant economic crisis in its modern history, have placed severe withdrawal limitations on foreign currency holdings, essentially freezing the savings of many individuals.

Since nearly three years ago, informal capital limits have been enforced by banks. Late in 2019, individuals could not access their funds, and a few months later, they too began to impose withdrawal limits. And if you had a [US] dollar account, they would disburse their funds in discounted Lebanese currency," she added, adding that the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value versus the US dollar.

Two-thirds of the population lives in poverty due to the crisis. Still, foreign governments have refrained from investing in or rescuing the cash-strapped nation without changes to combat corruption.

The man was captured on a mobile phone film demanding his money. In a different video, two police officers behind the bank's barred entryway implore the man to release at least one hostage, but he refuses.

"He is demanding payment because he has been unable to find employment, and this information is obtained from second-hand sources. "[He is] a dissatisfied depositor who believes that this is his money and that he has the right to access it," Khodr added, adding that other dissatisfied depositors had gathered at the site, some in his support.

"This is neither an armed nor a bank robbery in the traditional sense, but rather a man taking hostages...

She stated, "he is demanding what he believes is rightfully his."

Khodr noted that this was the second instance in recent months that someone has kept bank personnel as hostages in the country to obtain his money.

A few months ago, a man held bank employees in the country's east as hostages. He claimed his $50,000 savings since it was his own. "He could no longer endure," she remarked. "He eventually surrendered and returned the money. The judge eventually released him from prison."

Publish : 2022-08-11 17:21:00

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