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1,200 inmates escape from Benghazi prison with help of neighbors

By Hamdi Alkhshali and Holly Yan, CNN
July 28, 2013 -- Updated 1003 GMT (1803 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Of the 1,200 who escaped, 18 have been captured and a few have surrendered
  • Prime minister: Residents stormed the prison because they didn't want it in their area
  • Authorities couldn't draw their arms on the residents, allowing them to help the prisoners
  • City official: Benghazi's security apparatus "suffers from the lack of manpower and equipment"

(CNN) -- Libyan authorities are trying to round up 1,200 inmates who spilled out of a Benghazi prison.

The prisoners escaped the al-Kwyfah facility in Benghazi early Friday, but only 18 have been captured, city security spokesman Mohammed Hujazi told Libya News TV on Saturday. A few others have surrendered, Hujazi said.

Residents living next to the prison stormed the facility because they didn't want a prison in their neighborhood, said Ali Zaidan, prime minister of Libya's transitional government.

Authorities rushed to the scene, but were instructed "not to draw arms against citizens," Zaidan said.

So the al-Kwyfah residents were able to open the floodgates for the prisoners.

Zaidan said the country's border posts have lists of the escaped prisoners. He also ordered the closure of Libya's border with Egypt, to the east.

"Nobody will be allowed to cross, but we will allow the goods only to enter in the month of Ramadan," Zaidan said.

Hujazi, the city's security spokesman, said the security apparatus in Benghazi "suffers from the lack of manpower and equipment."

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