Libyan security officials say that over 1,000 inmates have escaped from a prison near the eastern city of Benghazi in a stunning jailbreak.
The incident occurred at the al-Kweifiya prison on Saturday.
"There was a riot inside al-Kweifiya prison, as well as an attack from outside. More than 1,000 prisoners escaped. Special forces called in as reinforcements were given orders not to fire at the prisoners," said a security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said most of the escapees were common law offenders, including several foreigners, but “some of them were detainees in cases linked to the former regime of Muammar Gaddafi”.
However, a security official at al-Kweifiya prison said that most of the escapees were facing serious charges.
Mohammed Hejazi, a government security official in Benghazi, said that government forces recaptured 18 of the escapees, while some returned on their own.
He added that three prisoners were injured in the jailbreak and were taken to hospital.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed the incident, saying, "Residents of the area carried out the attack because they don't want the prison near their homes."
He added that border posts had been put on alert and given a list of names to arrest the escapees.
Libyans rose up against Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in February 2011 and deposed him in August 2011. He was slain on October 20 of the same year.
Benghazi was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising. It is largely governed by militias in the absence of unified Libyan security and military forces.
The former rebels refuse to lay down their arms, despite efforts by the central government to impose law and order.
Benghazi has been the scene of numerous attacks and assassinations over the past year as the power struggles between militiamen have intensified.