Government building set ablaze as eastern Libya protests intensify
Demonstrations against corruption and poor living conditions have been going on in Benghazi for the past three days. On Saturday they spread to the towns of Al-Bayda and Al-Marj, also in eastern Libya, and Sabha in southern Libya.
Several hundred people took part in the protests, Reuters reported. Eastern Libya has recently suffered from a major banking crisis and extended electricity cuts.
The fire in the government building, which was constructed in 2017, turned its white facade black according to eyewitness reports. The blaze was later put out.
Reuters reported that some of the protesters were armed while Libya Al-Ahrar TV said that Haftar’s forces had fired on the protesters.
|Libya Al-Ahrar TV tweeted images of the government building on fire|
The television station also reported that security forces had stormed the home of Munir Zgheiba, an activist who wrote social media posts in support of the protests, and detained him.
An unrecognised government allied with Haftar controls eastern and southern Libya while the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the capital Tripoli and the west of the country.
Aguila Saleh, the speaker of the unrecognised government’s parliament, called an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss the protests. An earlier statement from protest groups accused officials in the unrecognized government of “embezzling funds” intended for fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Libya has been in a state of civil war since May 2014, when Haftar’s self-styled ‘Libyan National Army’ launched an operation against rival militias in eastern Libya, later capturing most of the east and the south of the country.
The burned government building was built shortly after Haftar captured Benghazi.
Earlier in 2020, GNA forces inflicted a major military defeat on Haftar- who is backed by the UAE, Egypt, and Russia - driving his troops out of their former strongholds in western Libya.
An economic crisis has taken hold in Libya after Haftar’s forces blockaded oil facilities in January. On Saturday, the US announced that Haftar agreed to end the blockade, but sources in eastern Libya said negotiations over this were still ongoing.
The GNA and the unrecognised east-based government have been taking part in peace talks in Morocco since late August, with the aim of holding nationwide elections.