TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Some 120 prisoners escaped from Libya's largest jail on Monday after the policeman in charge threw a set of keys into the prisoners' cells, a security official said.
The mass escape is the latest in a string of incidents which highlight the ongoing instability in Libya a year after the end of the civil war that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Supreme Security Council spokesman Abdel-Monem al-Hurr told Reuters that 120 men detained in the Jdeida prison in Tripoli were now on the run and were believed to be hiding in the city.
"We don't know why the policeman threw the keys into the prison," he said on Monday. "We've been able to catch only seven of the prisoners so far."
Jdeida prison is the biggest jail in Libya and falls under the jurisdiction of the interior ministry.
Hurr said the prisoners were in jail for crimes such as murder and rape, many of them were serving sentences issued by judges under the Gaddafi administration.
"This incident shows how weak the police system is in western Libya where we haven't been able to gauge the loyalties of all the security officials working for the government," said Hurr, saying that many of those guarding prisons were Gaddafi-era officials who may still harbor hostility to the new government.
(Reporting by Ali Shuaib in Tripoli and Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Benghazi; Editing by Jon Hemming)