Beirut Bank ‘Vigilante’ Expected To Remain In Custody For Questioning Until Next Week


The 42-year-old, Bassem Sheikh Hussein, has become a hero for some after holding both clients and employees hostage in Hamra’s Federal Bank of Lebanon, in an attempt to withdraw from his own account. 

Hussein is currently detained at a Beirut intelligence branch after being escorted out of the bank in Hamra. The first round of questioning took place on Thursday night, after which prosecutors decided not to release him.

It is unknown whether the hostages themselves will press charges against him. However, many empathize with Sheikh Hussein. Protesters that gathered outside of the bank on Thursday chanted “We are all Bassam.”

The Day In Question

Shortly before noon on Thursday, Hussein doused the interior of the building with petrol, threatening to kill the hostages and set himself on fire if he could not withdraw $210,000 of his own savings to pay for his father’s medical bills.

The hostage situation lasted nearly seven hours. Hussein was originally offered just $10,000 of his $209,000 balance. The “offer” went up to $30,000, which he rejected. He eventually agreed to a partial payment of $35,000.

No injuries were reported.

This is far from the first time that this happened in Lebanon since the start of the crisis. Just this January, Abdallah Assaii held up a branch in the Beqaa Valley and eventually made out with $50,000.

The capital control imposed by the banks in Lebanon for over 2 years now has been excruciating for the people who are unable to have access to their own deposits while the economic crisis continues to hit hard, propelling a majority into poverty.

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