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1,000 inmates break out of Libyan facility

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, July 27, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

TRIPOLI, Libya — More than a thousand inmates escaped a prison Saturday in Libya as protesters stormed political party offices across the country, signs of the simmering unrest gripping a nation overrun by militias and awash in weaponry.

It wasn't clear if the jailbreak at al-Kweifiya prison occurred as part of the demonstrations. Protesters had massed across Libya over the killing of an activist critical of the country's Muslim Brotherhood group.

Inmates started a riot and set fires after security forces opened fire on three detainees who tried to escape the facility outside of Benghazi, a security official at al-Kweifiya prison said. Gunmen quickly arrived at the prison after news of the riot spread, opening fire with rifles outside in a bid to free their imprisoned relatives, a Benghazi-based security official said.

Those who escaped either face or were convicted of serious charges, the prison official said.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.

Special forces later arrested 18 of the escapees, while some returned on their own, said Mohammed Hejazi, a government security official in Benghazi.

At a news conference, Prime Minister Ali Zidan blamed the jailbreak on those living around the prison.

“The prison was (attacked) by the citizens who live nearby because they don't want a prison in their region” he said. “Special forces were present and could have got the situation under control by using their arms, but they had received orders not (to use) their weapons on citizens ... so the citizens opened the doors to the prisoners.”

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