BEIRUT — A new bank holdup was underway Thursday in a Bank Med branch in Nabatieh, South Lebanon, by an armed client claiming his own money, which has been illegally blocked by his bank.
According to our correspondent in the South, Yahia Ali Badreddine, a 55-year-old supermarket owner, whose savings amount to nearly $150,000, is armed and took the branch employees hostage, demanding access to his funds. This information was confirmed by the state-owned National News Agency. Security agents were deployed to the scene. Badreddine threatened to commit suicide if the bank did not meet his demands, the NNA reported.
Badreddine's son, who was present at the scene, told Al Jadeed channel that he was unable to reach his father by phone.
"At the beginning of the month, my father unsuccessfully tried to withdraw $500 from his account," he said.
Such operations, sometimes carried out at gunpoint, have been on the rise in Lebanon, as depositors fail to withdraw their own savings that have been blocked since the economic crisis began in 2019.
On Wednesday, several actions were taken by depositors, including MP Cynthia Zarazir. A branch in Jbeil was targeted by gunfire from a disgruntled depositor, while in front of the Banque du Liban in Hamra, dozens of activists demonstrated against the circulars that legitimize the illegal measures taken by banks. The Mouttahidoun (United, in Arabic) collective even announced that depositors threatened to set fire to the homes of bank owners.
These developments come as Sali Hafez, who held up her bank with a dummy gun on Sept. 14 in Beirut and has been on the run ever since, appeared in court on Thursday and was released on financial bail with a six-month travel ban.
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed Blom Bank as the bank taken over. To clarify, the bank that was held up is Bank Med.
Additional reporting by Muntasser Abdallah