For a country that already has a problem with roving outlaws, this is the last thing you want to have happen. AFP reports that about 120 prisoners escaped from jail in the Libyan capital of Tripoli Monday. National Guard chief Khaled al-Sharif says security forces are on high alert as search campaigns begin outside Al-Jadaida prison, one of the capital's largest jails. "We are trying to hunt [the prisoners] down and some have already been arrested," he said. "Security services are on high alert to catch them." The BBC reports that the prison is one of several in the country run by brigades and military councils, which have come under fire by Amnesty International for "widespread" human rights abuses in prisons following the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.
The problem of prisoner releases in Arab Spring countries has come into sharp focus following the deadly terrorist attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi in September. Earlier this month, one of the assailants of the Benghazi attack was identified as Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad, an Islamist militant who recently got out of an Egyptian prison before setting his sights on Libya. Writing in The Atlantic, think-tankers Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Aaron Zelin have spoken to the broader problem of prisons in Arab Spring, which have released prisoners or allowed them to break free through mismanagement. "In many cases, it is a good thing that prisoners have gone free: the Arab dictatorships were notorious for unjustly incarcerating political prisoners, and abusing them in captivity," they write. "But jihadists have also been part of this wave of releases, and we are now beginning to see the fruits of the talent pool that is back on the streets." There's no evidence yet that these were particularly hardened criminals or jihadists but it certainly isn't a welcome development. In August the facility underwent a mutiny resulting in two inmates being injured.