A gunman takes hostages in a Beirut bank, demanding the return of frozen cash

According to security sources, negotiations are on to persuade the hostage to stand down. The source spoke on condition of anonymity due to professional standards.

The armed man is demanding the bank return money from his frozen account to pay for his father’s operation, threatening to set the bank on fire and kill everyone inside, according to NNA. A man holding an assault rifle in a social media video demands the bank pay $209,000 from his frozen account.

“Give me back my money!” The man was heard shouting in a social media video recorded by the bank. “I don’t have much time.”

A bearded hostage is seen pacing around the bank in a panic while cursing his hostages.

Scores of people gathered outside the bank demanding the bank return money to the hostage-takers in an incident that marked the frustration of Lebanese depositors amid the country’s economic downturn. Many hostage supporters shouted slogans against the government.

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

The head of the Lebanese Depositors Association, Hassan Mughniyeh, entered the bank in an attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages but the man fired two stray bullets, according to NNA.

“Lebanon’s political authority and banking institutions are responsible for this situation,” Mughniyeh said, according to NNA. “If things are not resolved quickly, the situation will only get worse.”

Lebanon’s economic crisis, which erupted in 2019, has 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.

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