Armed man raids Lebanon bank demanding trapped savings

An armed man on Wednesday entered a branch of Bankmed in Lebanon’s mountain city of Aley where he tried to retrieve his trapped savings, advocacy group Depositors Outcry and a security source told Reuters.

The man who entered the bank was able to retrieve a portion of his money before handing himself over to security forces, according to a security source. He was then detained.

Bankmed declined to comment on the incident, Reuters reported, while security forces were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Lebanese woman allegedly took hostages at gunpoint at BLOM bank in central Beirut to demand her frozen deposits and pay for her ill sister’s medical treatment, according to local media reports.

The armed break-ins were just the latest in a string of heists as Lebanese depositors, whose savings have been devalued and trapped in banks for almost three years, take matters into their own hands.

Sally Hafez, who allegedly took hostages at BLOM bank at gunpoint, instantly turned into a folk hero on social media in Lebanon, where many are desperate to access their savings and furious at a banking sector perceived as a corrupt cartel.

A second woman who appeared in the video claimed they had secured more than $13,000, while a man standing beside her carried what appeared to be stacks of banknotes wrapped in plastic.

Last month, a local man received widespread sympathy after he stormed a Beirut bank with a rifle and held employees and customers hostage for hours to demand some of his $200,000 in frozen savings to pay hospital bills for his sick father.He was detained but swiftly released.

In January, a bank customer held dozens of people hostage in eastern Lebanon after he was told he could not withdraw his foreign currency savings, a source at the lender said. According to local media, the customer was eventually given some of his savings and surrendered to security forces.

Lebanon has been battered by its worst-ever economic crisis since 2019. The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value on the black market, while poverty and unemployment have soared.

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