Gunman takes Beirut bank hostage demanding return of frozen funds

After a stalemate of several hours, the man surrendered to security forces after receiving part of his bank account, according to the security source. The source spoke on condition of anonymity due to professional standards.

The man was promised $30,000 of the $210,000 in his frozen bank account as part of the terms of his surrender, according to the NNA.

The gunman said he needed funds to pay for his father’s surgery, threatening to burn down the bank and kill everyone, according to the NNA. The man was seen in a social media video wielding an assault rifle.

“Give me back my money!” the man was heard screaming in a social media video recorded from the bank. “I do not have a lot of time.”

The bearded hostage taker is seen nervously pacing the bank as he curses at his hostages.

Dozens of people gathered outside the bank to demand that the bank return the funds to the hostage taker in an incident that highlighted the desperation of Lebanese depositors amid the country’s financial meltdown. Many supporters of the hostage taker chanted anti-government slogans.

Protesters threw water bottles at security forces as the hostage taker walked out of the bank saluting his supporters.

Since the onset of Lebanon’s financial crisis in October 2019, the country’s banking sector has imposed discretionary capital controls, severely restricting citizens’ access to their savings.

Earlier Thursday, the head of the Lebanese Association of Depositors, Hassan Mughniyeh, entered the bank to try to negotiate the release of the hostages, but the man fired two stray shots, according to ANI.

“The political authority and banking institutions in Lebanon are responsible for this situation,” Mughniyeh said according to ANI. “If the problems are not solved quickly, the situation will get worse.”

Lebanon’s economic crisis, which erupted in 2019, pushed more than three-quarters of the population into poverty and caused the local currency to lose more than 90% of its October 2019 value.