About 400 inmates escaped from a prison near the Libyan capital in a mass-jail break on Sunday after a week of deadly clashes between rival armed groups in the city.
The prisoners forced open doors and overwhelmed guards in the Ain Zara prison in southern Tripoli, Reuters reports, citing a police statement. The surrounding area has been wracked with fighting over the past week that pitted militia groups the Seventh Brigade, which hails from from Tarhouna, a town about 40 miles southeast of Tripoli, against the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades (TRB) and the Nawasi Brigade.
The evacuation operation was conducted in coordination with other UN organisations, as well as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Libya’s Department for Combating Illegal Immigration, it added.
Plunged into chaos following the fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Libya has become a prime transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants making dangerous clandestine bids to reach Europe.
People smugglers have taken advantage of the turmoil, putting African migrants seeking to reach Europe at greater risk.
Many migrants, intercepted or rescued at sea, find themselves detained in detention centres with poor conditions.
In its statement, the UNHCR said it “opposes detention of refugees and asylum-seekers in need of international protection”.
The rival militias on Thursday paused the fighting south of the capital after a ceasefire agreement was reached.