September 26, 2022

Brighton Journal

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Held hostage in a Beirut bank, Saver demanded his money

He detained the employees and threatened to commit suicide by dousing them with petrol and setting them on fire if they did not retrieve the money deposited in the financial institution.

A Lebanese man who held bank employees hostage in Beirut has surrendered to police after hours of uncertainty. Armed with a gun, he threatened to blow himself up with petrol if he didn’t get his savings, a security official said.

A man entered a branch of the Federal Bank in the busy Hamra district of the Lebanese capital, He took a petrol can and took six or seven employees hostage. An official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as per department rules.

If the money deposited in the financial institution was not returned, he grabbed the employees and threatened to commit suicide by dousing them with petrol.
According to security sources, the gunman and the hostage-taker are demanding the return of his bank deposits. Federal Bank of Lebanon in Hamra, Lebanon on August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

The man fired three warning shots. he added. According to local media, He has about $200,000 blocked in the bank. “He demanded to access the money in his bank account and when the clerk denied the request, he started shouting that his family members were in the hospital. He then pulled out a gun,” security sources said.

Media and others outside the Federal Bank of Lebanon in Hamra, Lebanon on August 11, 2022.  REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Media and others outside the Federal Bank of Lebanon in Hamra, Lebanon on August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Members of the Lebanese army guard the area outside the Federal Bank in Hamra, Lebanon on August 11, 2022.  REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Members of the Lebanese army guard the area outside the Federal Bank in Hamra, Lebanon on August 11, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese banks have been plagued by liquidity problems since late 2019. They apply strict limits on the withdrawal of assets in foreign currency, which has evaporated the savings of many citizens. The country is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its modern history: three-quarters of the population are stuck in poverty and its currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 90% against the US dollar.

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Army, police and intelligence agencies have cordoned off the area. Agents spoke with the gunman to try to reach an agreement after several hours of negotiations.

Members of the Red Cross and Emergency Situations are ready to meet people freed by a keeper holding an undetermined number of people hostage (REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir)
Members of the Red Cross and Emergency Situations are ready to meet people freed by a keeper holding an undetermined number of people hostage (REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir)
An old man leaves the bank (REUTERS/Mohammed Azagir)
An old man leaves the bank (REUTERS/Mohammed Azagir)

Footage recorded on a mobile phone shows him enraged and at gunpoint demanding he hand over his money. In another recording, two policemen from behind the facility’s closed doors ask him to release at least one of the hostages, which he refuses.

A crowd gathered in front of the bank, many of them chanting “Let’s bring down the government of the banks!” Since Lebanon’s financial crisis erupted in 2019, many commercial banks have locked clients out of their hard currency through informal capital controls. They restrict monthly cash withdrawals in US dollars and allow withdrawals of other limited amounts in Lebanese pounds at a much lower rate than the parallel market rate, resulting in significant haircuts on the principal value of deposits.

Banks say there are exceptions for humanitarian cases, including hospital care, but depositors said those exemptions are rarely enforced.

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