Libya Prison Break Sees 1,000 Inmates Escape

A prison break in Libya freed more than 1,000 detainees. The incident happened near Benghazi and a security official announced the majority of the escapees were facing serious charges.

The jailbreak happened one day after a prominent political activist was assassinated. The incident caused widespread riots and protests in the city, though it isn’t clear if the two incidents were connected.

Protesters attacked offices related to the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday after Abdelsalam al-Mismari was killed, reports the BBC. A security spokesman in Benghazi reported that some of those who escaped had been captured.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan also stated that residents in Benghazi’s southern area stormed the prison in protest, because they did not want it in their district.

Inmates apparently started fires and rioted after security forces fired on three detainees who tried to escape, notes The Huffington Post. When news of the riot spread, gunmen reportedly showed up at the prison to help their relatives escape.

Mohammed Hejazi, a government security official in Benghazi, explained that special forces were able to arrest 18 escapees, while others returned to the prison on their own. The three inmates wounded in the initial escape attempt were taken to a local hospital.

Confusion reigned over how many prisoners escaped in the Libya prison break. Numbers of escapees ranged as high as 1,200, though they are difficult to substantiate. Prime Minister Zidan added at a news conference:

“The prison was [attacked] by citizens who live nearby because they don’t want a prison in their region. Special forces were present and could have got the situation under control by using their arms but they had received orders no [to use] their weapons on citizens.”

Both the assassination and prison break served as the latest examples of Libya’s tenuous security situation, along with the challenges it has faced while trying to restore peace after the Arab spring. Protesters rose up in 2011 and ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He was subsequently killed.

It is unclear how long it will take, or if it is possible, for officials to arrest all of the Libya prison escapees.

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