Libyan local dispute results in escape of 250 prisoners

By Essem Mohamed, AP

TRIPOLI, Libya–A local dispute in a Libyan city on Monday resulted in more than a dozen deaths, the partial destruction of a prison and the escape of at least 250 inmates, as well as the burning of a courthouse and prosecutor’s office, security officials said.

The events in Tajura, east of the capital, Tripoli, highlight the chaos that has engulfed Libya since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The North African country is torn between an internationally recognized government in the far east and an Islamist government in Tripoli.

Speaking anonymously in line with regulations, officials said Monday’s dispute began when officers killed a man trying to steal a car near the facility. In retaliation, the dead man’s family stormed the prison and burned nearby state buildings, killing 13 people including Tajura’s de-facto head of security and his deputy. A further seven people were wounded.

Authorities managed to transfer 127 prisoners in the early stages of the trouble, the officials said.

Libya’s warring factions are due to sign a U.N. power-sharing agreement in Morocco on Dec. 16 intended to resolve the conflict. They want to bring an end to the security vacuum, which has given space to extremists groups, including an affiliate of the Islamic State group. The chaos has also opened the door to a surge of refugees and other migrants who have set off from its coast to Europe on rickety boats operated by smugglers. Many have died on the journey.