Highlights

  • Hostage crisis inside a bank in Lebanon
  • Armed man wanted return of his money
  • Curbs on withdrawal amid economic crisis

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Explained: why armed man who took hostages in Lebanon bank is hailed as hero

Reports said he insisted on withdrawing part of his frozen savings of $210,000 to help pay for his father’s hospital bill.

An armed man has emerged as an unlikely hero in Lebanon after he held hostages in a central Beirut bank and demanded access to his own money.

42-year-old food-delivery driver, Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein entered the bank with a shotgun and a canister of gasoline, fired three warning shots and locked himself in with up to 10 hostages, threatening to set himself on fire unless he was allowed to take out his money.

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Reports said he insisted on withdrawing part of his frozen savings of $210,000 to help pay for his father’s hospital bill.

Like nearly all Lebanese, the hostage taker’s funds have been off limits for more than two years. Banks, stricken by an economic crisis, have allowed depositors only token withdrawals of dollars each month that are insufficient to meet the most basic of needs.

News of the siege was quick to reach all parts of a country where nearly 80% of the population are now considered impoverished after the imposition of informal capital controls. Scenes of a defiant figure holding a bank to ransom resonated with hundreds of thousands of people.

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