Lebanon Bank Staff Held Hostage By Armed Man
Category: International

During the ongoing economic crisis, Lebanon's banks have implemented informal capital controls, effectively freezing savings.

An armed man holds staff hostage at a bank in Beirut, the capital of crisis-hit Lebanon, threatening to set himself on fire if he does not receive his trapped savings, according to security sources.

He entered a Federal Bank branch in Beirut's Hamra district carrying a canister of petrol on Thursday. According to a bank official who spoke on condition of anonymity, he was holding six or seven employees hostage.

According to the official, the man also fired three warning shots. His bank account contains about $200,000, according to local media reports.

Soldiers, police officers, and intelligence agents surrounded the area as authorities attempted to negotiate with the man.

According to the Associated Press, the man's brother said he wanted to withdraw money to pay for his father's medical expenses and other family needs.

Atef al-Sheikh Hussein told the news agency that his brother is not a scoundrel. It is from his own pocket that he gives to others.

There are strict withdrawal limits on foreign currency assets in Lebanon's banks, which have effectively frozen the savings of many citizens during the worst economic crisis in modern history, Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reported outside one of the banks in Beirut.

Since nearly three years ago, banks have imposed informal capital controls. Late in 2019, people were unable to access their savings. After a few months, withdrawal limits were also imposed. The Lebanese pound has declined by more than 90 percent against the US dollar if you had a [US] dollar account, and they would disburse their money in Lebanese currency.

Foreign governments have avoided investing in or bailing out the cash-strapped country without commitments to reforms to address corruption since the crisis left two-thirds of the population in poverty.

The man demanded money from the man on his mobile phone during the incident. Two police officers behind the locked bank entrance ask the man to release at least one hostage, but he refuses.

Since he hasn't been able to find a job, he is demanding his money. We're getting this information from second-hand sources. Khodr said that other disgruntled depositors gathered at the scene, some of them supporting the man, who believes that this is his money.

Rather than an armed robbery or a bank robbery, it's a man taking hostage demanding what he believes is rightfully his.

A 37-year-old coffee shop owner successfully withdrawn $50,000 of his own money from a bank branch in eastern Lebanon in January after holding staff hostage.

11 Aug, 2022 178
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