Lebanese banks closed over security concerns


Lebanese bankers have declared a three-day closure of branches, starting Monday, after being hit by a deluge of intrusions from angry depositors demanding access to their frozen savings.

Bassam Mawlawi, the caretaker minister of interior, has also called for an emergency meeting of the Central Security Council to discuss the security measures that can be taken in light of the increasing bank storming incidents.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon, in a statement, said the closure of banks was being undertaken to take the necessary regulatory measures as well as in consideration of the safety of customers. The group rejected violence in any form and stressed that the solution was ‘to pass laws to address the crisis as quickly as possible.’

Lebanese banks on Friday were hit by a deluge of copycat heists from angry customers seeking to withdraw their deposits.

The spate of incidents started early in the morning when a man entered a Byblos Bank branch in the town of Ghazieh, in the south of Lebanon, and threatened employees with a military weapon, demanding they return his financial deposit.

Less than two hours later, a depositor, later identified as Abed Soubra, stormed the BLOM Bank branch in Beirut’s Tarik El-Jadida, similarly demanding that his money be released to him.

An official from the bank’s main headquarter told Arab News that they had received photos from inside the bank’s branch indicating a state of panic among employees and customers. Security forces were negotiating with the armed depositor, the official said.

The Byblos depositor, Mohammed Q., was accompanied by another person when he entered the south Lebanon bank. He poured gasoline on the premises and threatened to burn the branch if he was not given his deposit.—AN


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