George Grant and Rida Akil
TRIPOLI — The Ministry of Justice-controlled prison in Fornaj, Tripoli, descended into chaos this afternoon after a riot triggered gun battles and a prisoner break-out that has resulted in at least two confirmed casualties so far.
The exact circumstances surrounding the events remained unclear at the time of writing, as forces from the Supreme Security Committee, the judicial police and local militias fought inside the prison to regain control.
When the Libya Herald visited the scene at around 6:30pm on Friday, several hundred security personnel had surrounded the prison, whilst checkpoints had been erected closing roads in and out of the area.
Armed security personnel, some in bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets, could be seen scaling the walls of the prison and adjacent buildings, whilst sustained gunfire was heard from inside the prison walls.
Billows of smoke could also be seen emanating from the prison.
“At present, the SSC controls three out of ten parts of the prison”, said Lofti Melad, an SSC official involved in the operation. “Two members of the judicial police have been wounded inside, but I cannot tell you more than that”.
As presently understood, prisoners set fire to a number of vehicles inside the facility at around 5pm Friday afternoon, having obtained keys to release themselves from their cells.
Guards were then reportedly pelted with rocks as they sought to douse the flames, and set on by inmates who took control of some of their weapons.
There are unconfirmed rumours that one of the prisoners had previously been involved in a major financial crime and that he had persuaded other inmates to help him try to escape.
Eight prisoners are believed to have initially succeeded in staging a break-out, although seven were subsequently recaptured. The arrival of journalists at the scene caused significant aggravation, given the chaotic nature of the situation, and perhaps compounded by the day’s fasting.
Threats were issued after an aggressive verbal confrontation, forcing the Libya Herald to leave.
The paper is currently in contact with SSC officials and further details will be published as they emerge. — Libya Herald