Man Praised as ‘Hero’ for Holding Bank Staff Hostage to Access Own Savings

Unable to access his own savings, a Lebanese man recently decided to hold bank staff at gunpoint until management agreed to at least give him enough money to pay his father’s medical bills.

Lebanon’s devastating financial crisis was brought into focus this month by a very unusual story. Bassam al-Sheikh Hussein, a 41-year-old man from Beirut, was recently hailed as a hero after entering a branch of the Federal Bank in the capital city’s Hamra district and taking the staff hostage in order to coerce them into letting him withdraw his own savings. The stand-off ended peacefully after seven hours, and Hussein was allowed to withdraw $35,000 of the $210,000 in his bank account, which he claimed to need to pay his father’s hospital bills.

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Beirut’s Stinking River of Trash

From afar it might look like a pathway of white pebbles snaking its way through the cosmopolitan capital of Lebanon, but it’s actually just a landfill overflowing with stinking garbage bags. Nicknamed ‘river of garbage’, this urban monstrosity stretches hundreds of meters through the Jdeideh municipality in the city’s suburbs.

The problem apparently began in July last year, when authorities closed down the main landfill site that collected the city’s garbage. Since they did not provide an alternate garbage dumping site, rising mounds of garbage started appearing on the streets of Beirut. In Jdeideh, a makeshift dumpyard was created four months ago near a few residential buildings, where people tossed all their garbage. It has grown in size since then, resulting in the unsightly ‘trash river’ that now stands testament to the city’s garbage crisis and the nation’s dysfunctional politics. “This used to be such a beautiful place, but look at it now. We can’t even walk by it,” one local told reporters, in February.

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