Hostage-taker turns hero

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AFP) — Bystanders hailed as a hero an armed customer who held bank staff hostage for hours Thursday in Lebanon because he couldn’t access funds frozen after the country’s economic collapse.

The suspect, identified only as Bassam, was armed with a rifle and had doused the interior of the bank with gasoline, security sources said.

But after eight hours the standoff ended peacefully.

“Bassam you are a hero!” cheering bystanders chanted outside the bank.

The incident was the latest involving local banks and angry depositors unable to access savings that have been locked in Lebanese banks since the country’s economic crisis began in 2019.

Official media said the suspect turned himself in when the bank agreed to give him $30,000 out of his more than $200,000 in trapped savings.

Local residents said the incident began at about 10:30 a.m.

He said he stormed the bank because his father “was admitted to hospital some time ago for an operation and could not pay for it,” NNA reported.

The man “threatened to set himself on fire and to kill everyone in the branch, pointing his weapon in the bank manager’s face,” NNA said.

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