Protesters torch Haftar’s offices in Libya’s Benghazi

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A Libyan woman hits a portrait of strongman Khalifa Haftar with a shoe during a demonstration with yellow vests ("gilets jaunes") against him in the capital Tripoli's Martyrs Square on April 19, 2019. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters in Libya’s second-largest city Benghazi set fire to the headquarters of the eastern administration controlled by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, a security source said Sunday.

“In the early hours of Sunday, a group of demonstrators attacked the cabinet building,” a Haftar official told Agence France-Presse (AFP), speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They set it on fire before fleeing,” the source said.

Police and firefighters quickly arrived, but the fire destroyed the main entrance to the building.

Protests also erupted in the eastern town of Al-Marj and police opened fire after demonstrators forced their way into the police station.

At least five people were injured, according to witnesses and the hospital.

Protests began late Thursday in Benghazi in the east, as anger boiled at regular power cuts, cash shortages and high fuel prices.

The eastern administration warned protesters “not to exceed their right to demonstrate and express themselves.”

The main military fault line in the North African nation is between forces loyal to the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and those backing Haftar, who launched an offensive to seize Tripoli last year.

Haftar was beaten back earlier this year by Turkish-backed GNA forces.

Since January, pro-Haftar groups have blocked the country’s most important oil fields to demand what they call a fair share of oil revenues.

The blockade – which has caused more than $9.6 billion in lost revenue, according to National Oil Corporation – has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages.

The economic crisis across Libya and in the east, especially, power cuts, have worsened due to the blockade.

However, on Sunday, the U.S. announced that Haftar has agreed to lift the blockade on oil controlled by his forces.

The U.S. statement came two days after delegates from Libya’s rival camps, under heavy international pressure, came to a preliminary political agreement. It aims to guide the country toward elections and demilitarize the contested city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s major oil fields and export terminals, which is controlled by Haftar. It also came amid protests over dire living conditions across the divided country.

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