Lebanese army conducts bank heist training

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The Lebanese army held a training exercise Tuesday that was seemingly in response to the string of bank heists in the country. 

The army training simulated a “security incident” at a bank. The purpose was to “detain the perpetrators.” US and British trainers assisted with the exercise, the army said in a tweet. 

A video posted by the army showed them brandishing assault rifles while detaining a man outside a building.



Why it matters: Most Lebanese are unable to access their bank savings due to capital controls and mismanagement of funds. The Lebanese pound has also plummeted against the dollar, making many people’s savings drop considerably in worth. 

As a result, there have been numerous incidents in Lebanon this year in which customers have used weapons to obtain their trapped funds from the banks. Just last week, two men — one of them a former member of the Internal Security Forces — entered a bank with a gun in Mount Lebanon. 

Holdups have been a regular occurrence since a man named Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein took hostages at a Beirut bank in August. He successfully retrieved $35,000 of his savings before being arrested. Hussein was later released without charge. 

Another woman, activist Sali Hafiz, went into hiding for weeks after using a toy handgun to get her savings out of a Beirut bank in September. She later turned herself into the authorities and was then released on bail. 

Many Lebanese banks temporarily closed in September due to the incidents. Banks have also boosted security. 

Many Lebanese are frustrated, and there is widespread sympathy for Hussein, Hafiz and others who have taken matters into their own hands. 

The Association of Depositors in Lebanon, which advocates on behalf of Lebanese bank deposit holders, criticized the army for the training exercise. “Is it not better to arrest those who stole people’s money?” they said in a tweet Tuesday, referencing the banks and financial authorities. 

Know more: Lebanon’s economic crisis is showing no signs of relenting. The price of olive oil hit a record high recently, Hanan Hamdan reported for Al-Monitor from Beirut.