Forty-two year-old Bassam al Sheikh Hussein locked himself inside a Beirut bank with up to 10 hostages when he was refused access to his funds.
A hostage standoff in which a gunman demanded a Beirut bank let him withdraw his trapped savings so that he could pay his father's medical bills has ended seven hours later with the man's surrender.
Authorities said Bassam al Sheikh Hussein, a 42-year-old food-delivery driver, entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in the Hamra neighbourhood in west Beirut on Thursday 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.
After hours of negotiations, he accepted an offer from the bank to receive part of his savings, according to local media and a depositors group that took part in the talks.
He then released his hostages and police whisked him away as he walked out of the bank. No injuries were reported.
He did not actually receive any of the money, according to a lawyer who provided legal support to Hussein and his family.
His wife, Mariam Chehadi, who was standing outside, told reporters after his arrest that her husband “did what he had to do."
According to a security source, Hussein demanded access to around $210,000 he had in his bank account and when the employee refused the request, he began screaming that his relatives were in the hospital.
Hussein had been struggling to withdraw his money to pay his father’s medical bills, said Hassan Moghnieh, who as head of the advocacy group Association of Depositors in Lebanon took part in the negotiations.
Lebanese soldiers, officers from the country’s Internal Security Forces and intelligence agents converged on the area during the standoff. Seven or eight bank employees were taken hostage along with two customers, George al Haj, head of the Bank Employees Syndicate, told local media.
Dozens of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against the Lebanese government and banks, hoping that the gunman would receive his savings.
Lebanese banks have limited withdrawals of hard currency for most depositors during the country's three-year financial meltdown, which has left more than three-quarters of the population struggling.
They cap monthly cash withdrawals in US dollars and allow other limited amounts to be withdrawn in Lebanese pounds at a rate much lower than the parallel market rate - resulting in a significant cut in the original value of the deposits.
Banks say they make exceptions for humanitarian cases including hospital care but depositors have said that those exemptions are rarely implemented.