Protesters Storm Libyan Parliament in Tobruk

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Protesters broke into the headquarters of the Libyan eastern-based Parliament in Tobruk on Friday evening. They set parts of it on fire amid protests over months of failed efforts to set the divided country on a path toward elections.

Images posted online showed thick columns of smoke as the protesters burned tires outside and torched cars. This occurred after one protester had smashed through the compound’s gate with a bulldozer and others attacked the walls with construction tools, local media reported.

There have been rallies in other Libyan cities against continuing power cuts, rising prices and political deadlock.

In the capital, Tripoli, where a rival administration holds sway, protesters called for elections.

According to eyewitnesses, thousands joined a march to the Parliament building calling for the current political powers to be dissolved and elections to be held.

They said that as security guards tried to prevent people from entering, a protester was shot in the legs and other demonstrators then forced their way inside.

The unrest comes a day after representatives of Libya’s rival powers – one based in the East of the country and the other in the West – at United Nations (UN)-mediated talks in Geneva failed to reach an agreement on a constitutional framework for national elections.

After more than a decade of war, the country is once again split between competing administrations, sliding backward despite a year of tentative steps towards unity.

Oil-rich Libya has been wrecked by conflict since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, leading to a rise in rival governments.

Fathi Bashagha, a powerful former Interior Minister, is now operating a separate administration out of the city of Sirte.

Libya’s plan for elections last December 24th fell through after the interim administration based in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Al-Dbaiba, failed to go ahead with the vote. The failure was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya.

The deteriorating economic situation was also a factor in Friday’s protests. In Tripoli, hundreds came out earlier in the day in opposition to the political crisis but also to rail against electricity shortages and rising prices for fuel and bread.

Libya, sweltering in the summer heat, has endured days of power cuts – a situation worsened by the blockade of key oil facilities amid the entrenched political rivalries.

The Parliament condemned the “acts of vandalism and the burning” of its headquarters.