Why the Lebanese hostage-taker was hailed as a national hero

The militant, who authorities have named Basam al-Sheikh Hussein, is one of the millions of Lebanese whose savings have been squandered in the country. devastating economic crisis it started in October 2019.

Videos posted on social media show Hussein nervously pacing the bank in denim shorts and sandals as his hostages try to reason with him. “Give me back my money,” shouted Hussein, brandishing a pistol. “I do not have much time”. He threatened to set fire to the bank and kill everyone in it.

As the tense standoff continued, details about the shooter began to emerge. According to security sources, Hussein’s bail was $210,000. He needed money—about $10,000—to pay for his father’s surgery. It was money he could not get because, like the vast majority of Lebanese, his bank account was frozen. He said he would turn himself in to the police if the funds were given to his brother.

As the clock in the bank ticked, people went outside to cheer Hussein on. They chanted anti-government and even some religious slogans in his support. Head of the Lebanese Association of Contributors Hassan Mughniye publicly condemned the government and the banking elite for Hussein’s economic position and accused them of confrontation.

Nevertheless, sympathy for Hussein only grew. A flood of social media posts praised him, and the security forces began to quietly speculate about the copycat incidents. By the end of the day, he had become a national hero in the eyes of many.

“A lot of people in Lebanon are considering doing what he did to go to jail when they try to unlock their bank deposits for their families,” a security source told CNN. “It’s a matter of when that trigger point occurs.”

A security source said the large number of people mired in debt, combined with widespread gun ownership in households, could lead to more incidents such as Thursday’s standoff.

The source spoke on condition of anonymity due to professional norms in Lebanon to describe the nature of the mindset within the source’s team.

Lebanon has one of the highest levels of guns per capita, with over 30% of civilians in the country armed, according to the Small Arms Survey, a group that monitors gun proliferation. The unstable political situation in the country has led many political groups to increase their arsenals.

Analysts and activists argue that the situation is becoming more unstable not only because of the economic crisis, but also because the government is not coping with it. When the financial tailspin began in October 2019, banks severely restricted access to customer deposits. However, these restrictions were discretionary and were never formalized into law. This meant that banks could transfer funds to anyone, and activists accused politicians of using the situation to move billions of dollars out of the country when its treasury was drying up. It was said that the rich stole from the poor.

The World Bank agrees with this by releasing several reports that have served as damning accusations against the political elite, whom it accused of committing “intentional depression.”
The Lebanese currency lost over 90% of its value in October 2019. Its infrastructure fell into disrepair due to more than 20 hours of power outages in addition to shortages of fuel, bread and water. Over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line — compared to about 30% three years ago. The banking crisis has exacerbated the situation by depriving people of access to their savings.

A few hours after the start of the confrontation, Hussein turned to the police. He was promised $30,000 as part of the terms of his surrender. As he left the bank, he waved to the crowd and to the nation, who were watching with rapt attention the incident, which highlighted the depth of their despair.

Digest

Sweden agrees to extradite man to Turkey after NATO deal

Sweden intends to extradite the Turkish citizen back to Turkey after its Supreme Court upheld the government’s decision. Angelika Wallgren, a spokeswoman for the justice minister, told CNN the decision was “unrelated” to Stockholm’s NATO bid.

  • Background: At the end of June, Turkey signed a tripartite memorandum with Finland and Sweden in support of their applications for NATO membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden promised Turkey to extradite 73 people based on a memorandum saying that Sweden and Finland will review Turkey’s pending extradition requests for terrorist suspects under the European Convention on Extradition.
  • Why is it important: Earlier, Erdogan threatened to veto Sweden and Finland’s requests for NATO membership, accusing the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the PKK. The PKK, which seeks an independent Kurdish state, has been fighting Turkey for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Iran warns against taking action against its citizens after US accuses Iran of alleged assassination plot

Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “baseless” US claims after accusing an Iranian of an alleged plot to assassinate former advisers to former US President Donald Trump. State news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Qanani as saying the allegations were politically motivated. “Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the guise of” allegations, he said, IRNA reported.

  • Background: The US Department of Justice on Wednesday announced it was prosecuting a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for allegedly attempting to orchestrate the assassination of John Bolton, who held high national security positions during the Trump and Bush administrations.
  • Why is it important: The accusations came as the US is negotiating with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal that the Trump administration withdrew from. Earlier, Iran demanded that the United States remove the Revolutionary Guards from the list of terrorist organizations.

Saudi Arabia wanted man detonates suicide belt during arrest

A man wanted by Saudi Arabia was killed Wednesday after detonating a suicide belt in Jeddah during an arrest operation, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday. According to SPA, three security personnel and one Pakistani citizen were injured in the explosion.

  • Background: This man, Abdullah bin Zayed Abdul Rahman al-Bakri al-Shehri, was on a list of nine people wanted by the Saudi authorities, SPA said, citing a state security official. Al-Shehri was involved in a 2015 attack on a mosque belonging to special forces in southwestern Saudi Arabia that killed 13 people, Saudi authorities said in 2016.
  • Why is it important: Recently, terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have been rare. The kingdom faced a spate of incidents in the early 2000s, following the 9/11 attacks on the US and again following the rise of ISIS in 2014.

By region

The teddy bear was found drunk and nearly passed out in Turkey after going on a “honey-crazy” binge on Thursday.

According to state media, local residents of the city of Düzce found a shabby-looking bear drunk on a mountainside, drunk on honey. Deciding that there was little they could do, they decided to take the bear to the local veterinarian.

Footage posted to social media shows the bear sitting in the back of a pickup truck, dazed and confused.

According to the National Library of Medicine, crazy honey is different from the honey you might add to tea because it contains grayanotoxins.

Found in some flowers of the heather family, graanotoxins give crazy honey its intoxicating effect.

The bear has since recovered from its sweet haze and is about to be released back into the wild, possibly to go after a safer kind of sugar.

Photo of the day

American DJ and producer Marshmello teams up with Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram on stage in Riyadh on Thursday to perform her single

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