Protesters set government building on fire in eastern Libya

PROTESTERS set fire to the government’s headquarters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as rare demonstrations over living conditions and corruption continued in the east of the country for a third day.

The protests late on also erupted in Al-Bayda, where the government was previously based, in Sabha in the south, and for the first time in Al-Marj, a stronghold of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, witnesses said.

Libya has been split into rival camps with parallel institutions in the east and west since 2014. Eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is aligned with a government and a rump parliament also based in the east.

A 14-month offensive by the LNA to take control of the capital, Tripoli, from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) crumbled in June, weakening Haftar.

Several hundred protesters turned out in the eastern towns to demonstrate against the political elite and over deteriorating living conditions that include lengthy power cuts and a severe banking crisis.

Similar protests broke out in late August in western Libya, where a new demonstration was planned for Sunday. Several dozen protesters had gathered outside the GNA building by midday.

In Benghazi the protesters, some armed with guns, set fire to the government building, leaving its white facade charred black, according to witnesses and pictures posted on social media.

The building was constructed after the LNA took control of Benghazi in 2017 after a campaign that left parts of the port city in ruins. The fire was later brought under control.

The economic crisis across Libya and power cuts in the east have been worsened by a blockade of most of the country’s oil facilities imposed by the LNA and its supporters since January.

The United States said on Saturday that Haftar had agreed to end the blockade, but sources in eastern Libya said negotiations were ongoing. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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