TRIPOLI (Reuters) - About 100 inmates out of more than 1,100 who escaped during a prison riot in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi have been recaptured, a security official said on Sunday.
Armed violence and lawlessness, caused in part by militia groups who often do as they please, has hobbled governance in wide areas of the oil-producing North African state following the 2011 war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.
Some 1,117 inmates on Saturday broke out of the Kuafiya prison on the outskirts of the city, the cradle of the 2011 uprising that has now become a hot spot for violence.
Officials said there had been an attack on the facility from outside as well as a riot inside.
Mohammed Sharif, head of security in Benghazi, said some prisoners had turned themselves in and others had been captured.
“The prison is back in operation as of this morning,” he told Reuters. “Seventy prisoners were brought in initially. Another 30 were caught in the town of al-Marj and seven in Ajdabiyah. They will be brought back to Kuafiya,” he said, referring to towns in eastern Libya.
Officials said the escapees included criminals from other African states.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed the incident but gave no numbers. He said residents had carried out the attack because they did not want the jail near their homes.
Benghazi has seen a wave of violence since last year with numerous attacks on security forces as well as foreign targets, including the assault on the U.S. mission last September in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
Saturday’s jail break came as hundreds of protesters attacked the Benghazi and Tripoli offices of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood and the headquarters of a liberal coalition in the capital after demonstrations sparked by assassinations in Benghazi turned violent late on Friday.
Hundreds of people took to the streets to denounce the killing of a prominent political activist and critic of the Brotherhood, Abdelsalam al-Mosmary, who was shot dead after leaving a mosque following Friday prayers.
Mosmary was an outspoken opponent of the Brotherhood, whose Islamist political wing is the second biggest party in the national congress, and regularly appeared on television criticizing the presence of armed militias on Libya’s streets. Two military officials were also killed in Benghazi on Friday.
Zeidan said he would reshuffle his cabinet and reorganize the government to cope with the “urgent” situation in the country following killings.
Reporting by Feras Bosalum and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Louise Ireland