BEIRUT, LEBANON: A gunman has entered a Beirut bank in Al Hamra Street demanding his own funds are released so he can pay his father’s hospital bills.The man, named as Bassam Sheikh Hussein, 42, says his money has been withheld as part of measures taken by the Banque du Liban since 2019.
It is understood that the man has taken eight hostages, they are six employees and two customers.
The man poured gasoline into the bank hall on Thursday morning and pulled out a gun threatening to burn himself and kill those in the bank unless he was given the $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital costs.
The security services have cordoned off the area and are still trying to communicate with Hussein.
— ???? ????? (@khalediskef) August 11, 2022
Customers who were inside the bank when the gunman stormed it said, he had had an account with the bank, containing $200,000 and was demanding they release $2,000.
It is understood the gunman told customers to leave the bank and kept on the employees.
Shortly after the siege began the gunman was seen leading an elderly man from the Federal Bank of Lebanon in Hamra, Lebanon.
Hasan Moghnieh, head of the depositors’ association, told Arab News that the gunman had originally demanded $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital bill.
But when the bank refused, he demanded the whole $210,000 balance.
After two hours people gathered in the area in solidarity with the gunman chanting: “Down with the rule of the bank.”A number of customers who had gathered in the area shouted to the media that they supported the actions of the gunman, stressing that they too wanted their money.
— Hashtag Elyoum (@Hashtagelyoum) August 11, 2022
Mughniyeh said the gunman “fired two shots inside the bank,” adding that the man was with his brother who also holds money in the branch.
He said the gunman justified the siege as the only way he could get his money.”
#BreakingThe scene at Federal Bank in Hamra, Beirut, where a man has taken a group of employees & others hostage, demanding his money.
Lebanon’s commercial banks imposed informal capital controls in 2019, preventing depositors from withdrawing the full dollar value of savings. pic.twitter.com/9ort1YAT3N
— Nada Homsi (@No_Homsi) August 11, 2022
The following is a live update of the events as they unfold. All timings are GMT:
11:05 am – Man outside the bank tells gathered media he has been commissioned by the hostage-taker to negotiate on his behalf.
10:47 am – Al-Akhbar tweets footage of demonstrators outside the bank chanting “Down with the banks ruling” of Lebanon.
10:29 am – Al Arabiya news channel reports that eight hostages are being held inside the bank.
10:20am – The face of the gunman (Reuters)
10:11 am – Video of the gunman appears to show his hostages pleading with him.
09:30am – Al Jadeed Television confirms that Basem Al-Sheikh Hussein, 42, has taken hostages in a branch of Federal Bank Lebanon in Hamrah Street in Beirut, demanding his money back.
He has $210,000 and his brother has $500,000 in accounts in the bank. Direct negotiations are ongoing between the families of the hostages and Hussein.