The 1,200 inmates who escaped from a prison in Benghazi, Libya, Saturday , were mostly Gaddafi loyalists, said Libyan security officials. The jailbreak happened as a mob of protesters took to the streets overnight to denounce the assassination of a prominent opponent of the current Libyan government. Security sources in Libya told the BBC “There was a riot inside al-Kwafiya prison, as well as an attack from outside.” The security officer was quoted by AFP as adding “There had been unrest inside the prison before the breakout.”
The protesters were enraged, over the assassination of a prominent political activist Abdelsalam al-Mosmary known for his caustic and permanent criticism against the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been increasingly influential in the Libyan parliament since the fall of Muammar Kaddafi, the dictator who ruled Libya for 42 years. Al-Mosmary was shot dead on Friday after leaving a mosque in Benghazi.
Violent demonstrations followed the killing, with protesters attacking offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. Demonstrators also stoned the headquarters of a liberal political coalition in Tripoli. Mobs attended al-Mosmary’s funeral.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown after a long uprising in 2011. He was killed by rebels whilst in hiding after his regime fell, following months of heavy fighting across the country.
Benghazi, one the most important cities in Libya, was the scene last year of the assassination of US ambassador, Christopher Stephens and three other Americans during an attack by armed groups on the US Consulate. The killing, still under investigations, has never been cleared up. Benghazi is also known as a bastion of Gaddafi loyalists. Suspicion that pro-Gaddafi groups were behind the jailbreak is explained by the fact they had been charged with attacking security bases after the conflict. Libyan officials said that Special Forces were called in as reinforcements and were given orders not to fire at the prisoners after Saturday’s jailbreak.
In an attempt to calm the protesters, the Libyan Prime minister, Ali Zeidan, promised Friday to reshuffle the cabinet and reorganize the government. He said that will be the way to cope with the “urgent” situation in the country following killings in the eastern city of Benghazi. “What is happening is an attempt to obstruct the state’s progression.” Zeidan said at a news conference. “We are about to make a cabinet reshuffle and decrease the number of ministries to ensure a better performance to face the urgent situation.”
The 2011 revolution in Libya has not brought total peace in Libya. As war weapons were distributed without control among different rebels groups and it is now tough for the Libyan government to control the whole country. Benghazi is one of the most unstable parts of post-revolution Libya. The Libyan government faces rude opposition and sometime uses strong methods in attempts to tame its rivals.
Sources: BBC News, AP, AFP and Reuters