A man armed with a shotgun held staff hostage at a bank in crisis-hit Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, threatening to set himself ablaze unless he receives his trapped savings, according to a security official.
The man entered a branch of the Federal Bank in Beirut’s bustling Hamra district on Thursday carrying a canister of petrol. He was holding six or seven bank employees hostage, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Branch manager Hassan Halawi, who is among those being held, told Reuters news agency in a phone interview: “I’m in my office. He [the hostage taker] gets agitated then calms down then gets agitated again.”
The man also fired three warning shots, the official said. Local media reported he has about $200,000 stuck in the bank.
Authorities attempted to negotiate with the man, as army soldiers, police officers from the country’s Internal Security Forces, and intelligence agents surrounded the area.
Some bank customers managed to flee before he shut the doors on the rest, according to the security official.