Following a week of deadly battles in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, a riot broke out in the Ain Zara prison Sunday and ended with the escape of 400 inmates. The Telegraph reports that guards weren’t able to prevent their escape because they feared how the escapees would retaliate if they tried. The crimes that landed the escaped inmates in jail have not been identified, but most who have been detained there have committed minor crimes, or were supporters of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi and had been found guilty of murders committed during the 2011 uprising that overthrew him.
The BBC reports that the escape happened during armed violence between rival factions around the facility. This week’s violence prompted Libya’s government, which is backed by the U.N., to declare a state of emergency.
In other violence in Libya, rockets struck a camp in Tripoli where hundreds of people displaced by area unrest were living. Emergency services and witnesses say that two people were killed and many others were injured by the attack. In total, over the last week, Libya’s Ministry of Health reports that 47 people were killed and dozens more injured. Human Rights Watch reported that at least 18 victims were civilians.
An attack by militias located south of Tripoli pulled local militias that support the local government into battle last week, kicking off the violence that stretched across the week. That government, the Government of National Accord (GNA), says the clash is “an attempt to derail peaceful political transition” in Libya, an action about which they were not able to remain silent.
Guards were unable to prevent the prisoners escaping as they feared for their own lives, police said https://t.co/QnPvu7xkzA
— AFP news agency (@AFP) September 2, 2018
Libya has been experiencing chaos since the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in 2011. Tripoli’s airport was closed Friday and Saturday, and hundreds of migrants who were left stranded by the fighting were moved to detention centers.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has declared the “indiscriminate use of force is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law” and has asked for humanitarian relief to be provided to the area. On Saturday, a joint statement by the U.S., U.K., France, and Italy said that any efforts “to weaken the legitimate Libyan authorities and hinder the ongoing political process are not acceptable.” They also called for an end to hostilities.
“We are calling on the armed groups to immediately stop all military action and warn those who seek to undermine stability, in Tripoli or elsewhere in Libya, that they will be made accountable for it.”