|© AFP / FATHI AL-MASRI|
A protester has been shot and killed in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, as the country’s financial and economic crisis worsens under the additional pressure of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Lebanese pound has collapsed amid soaring inflation and unemployment worsened by the shutdown of the economy, exacerbating the pre-existing financial crisis which has plagued the country since October.
As protesters became increasingly angry, soldiers fired warning shots into the air, before using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. The violence only escalated from there, as soldiers faced off against protesters and rioters, ultimately shooting dead one young man in his 20s.
The soldiers claim they were bombarded with fire bombs and a grenade, in an engagement during which two soldiers were lightly injured. Eyewitness video from the scene purports to show the army vehicles ablaze.
An army vehicle set on fire in the middle of the protests' square (Al-Nour square) in #Tripoli— Luna Safwan - لونا صفوان (@LunaSafwan) April 27, 2020
This is officially a riot - very similar to the Beirut riot that targeted local banks in Hamra street a couple of months ago.#Lebanon#LebanonProtests #المسلسلات_أهم_من_الجوع pic.twitter.com/tFN2tOAtpj
الجيش يطلق النار على الثوار بشكل مباشر !! ليش كل هالغضب؟🙂— Abeer (@AbeerNasserr) April 27, 2020
اصابتان خطيرتان في طرابلس والامور خرجت عن السيطرة ... pic.twitter.com/NM1Ya72NHE
Several banks were attacked as the protesters vented their ire at the country's economic apocalypse. At least one bank was set on fire, as eyewitness footage from the scene shows.
The country's banking association has shuttered all banks in Tripoli until security can be re-established in the city, after the targeted “serious attacks and rioting” put bank employees’ lives in harm’s way.
Lebanon's banks have been the go-to targets of protester frustration since anti-government demonstrations began last October, as people have been frozen out from accessing their savings.
The pound has lost more than half its value since the financial and economic crisis began, with the coronavirus pandemic only adding insult to injury in an already tense and volatile situation.