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Gunman takes hostages at Beirut bank in a bid to free his savings

A crowd chanting their support for the hostage-taker shouted: “Down with the rule of the banks.”
Army soldiers, rear, and security forces stand guard outside a Federal Bank branch in Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 11, 2022.
Soldiers stand guard outside the Beirut bank where a depositor was holding hostages. Lebanon has suffered from a crushing economic crisis, with nearly three-quarters of the population living in poverty. Anwar Amro / AFP - Getty Images

A man armed with what appeared to be a shotgun took several people hostage in a bank in Lebanon on Thursday, demanding that the institution release his savings.

The seven-hour standoff ended after he agreed to an offer in which he would receive some of the money, according to local media and a depositors group that took part in the negotiations.

Earlier, videos posted on social media showed a bearded man in a T-shirt and cutoff jeans holding a gun demanding money from a bank employee.

The suspect’s wife told reporters gathered outside the bank that her husband “did what he had to do,” according to The Associated Press.

As security forces escorted him out of the bank, the suspect waved to a crowd of supporters who had gathered outside. The crowd could earlier be heard shouting: “Down with the rule of the banks.”

Lebanon has suffered from a crushing economic crisis in recent years, with nearly three-quarters of the population living in poverty, according to the United Nations. Financial institutions have imposed strict limits on withdrawals, effectively trapping the savings of millions, and the value of the Lebanese pound has crashed against the U.S. dollar.

Angry bank customers have increasingly turned to unconventional methods to try to get their money, from sit-ins to attacks on staff members, Reuters reported.

Among the people outside the bank was Dina Abou Zor, a lawyer with the Depositors’ Union, a group that advocates for banking consumers in Lebanon. 

“What led us to this situation is the state’s failure to resolve this economic crisis and the banks’ and Central Bank’s actions, where people can only retrieve some of their own money as if it’s a weekly allowance,” she told the AP.

The suspect’s brother also told the AP that he is a “decent” and generous man. He added that his brother wanted to help pay his father’s medical bills and other family expenses.