More than 1,000 prisoners have escaped from a Libyan jail this afternoon, it has emerged.
Libyan security officials said the mass jailbreak occurred at Koyfiya prison, near the eastern city of Benghazi.
The jailbreak happened as protesters stormed the offices of Islamist-allied parties in Libya’s main cities.
Protesters had massed across the country angry over the killing of an activist critical of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood group.
It is not known if the jailbreak was part of the protests or if inmates received outside help.
A security official from the prison said most of the inmates were being held on serious charges.
There was confusion initially about how many prisoners broke out, with numbers of escapees ranging as high as 1,200.
Benghazi’s security situation is among the most precarious in post-revolution Libya.
Today, hundreds gathered in the capital Tripoli after dawn prayers, denouncing the Friday shooting of Abdul-Salam Al-Musmari. They set fire to tires in the street and demanded the dissolution of Islamist parties.
The two incidents highlighted Libya’s precarious security situation and the challenges the North African country faces as it tries to restore security nearly than two years after the ousting and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
In Tripoli, protesters appeared to be inspired by events in neighboring Egypt, where millions took to the streets yesterday to answer a call from the army chief, who said he wanted a mandate to stop ‘potential terrorism’ by supporters of the country’s ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.
‘We don’t want the Brotherhood, we want the army and the police,’ Libyan protesters chanted, repeating a slogan also used in Egypt.
Libya’s security forces are struggling to control the country’s militias, most of whom have roots in the rebel groups that overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.
Al-Musmari, who used to publicly criticise the Brotherhood, was killed by unknown assailants in a drive-by shooting in Benghazi.
Some protesters stormed the headquarters of a Brotherhood-affiliated political party and another Islamist-allied party in the capital, destroying furniture.
Witnesses say a Brotherhood party office was also stormed in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Last year, the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an attack in Benghazi.
Libya is struggling to combat a growing tide of extremism in the country following the ousting of Gaddafi after more than four decades in power.
A recent report chronicled how support for Al-Qaida is on the rise in the country.
One official said recently that progress is slow as Libya makes its transition from authoritarian rule.
‘We started from below zero, we are not starting from scratch,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to build our own police and our own army, and things will take time.
‘We have had 42 years of dictatorship, where people cannot raise their voice and they cannot express their opinions. You will find people with extreme ideas.’