Lebanon sees spree of bank holdups in financial crisis

STORY: Seven banks have been held up since Wednesday (September 14) in Lebanon, where commercial banks have locked most depositors out of their savings since an economic crisis took hold three years ago, leaving much of the population unable to pay for basics.

On Friday morning, an armed man identified as Abed Soubra entered BLOM Bank in the capital's Tariq Jdideh neighborhood demanding his deposit, the bank told Reuters.

He later handed his gun to security forces but remained locked in the bank past sunset, negotiating with bank officials to withdraw his $300,000 in savings in cash, he told Reuters.

Soubra eventually left the bank with no money as part of a settlement negotiated by an influential sheikh, local media reported. He was not taken into custody.

The Depositors' Union, an advocacy group established to help clients get access to their funds, described Friday's hold-up spree as "the depositors' uprising" and a "natural and justified reaction" to banks' restrictions.

Lebanon's banks association announced a three-day closure next week over security concerns and urged the government to pass laws to deal with the crisis.

The four other hold-ups on Friday concluded in partial pay-outs with a total of $60,000 cash given to the assailants, most of whom were arrested while one went into hiding.