World Bulletin / News Desk
Armed protesters calling for more autonomy for Libya's east stormed the national election commission in Benghazi on Sunday, burning materials and breaking computer equipment outside, less than a week before the North African country holds an election.
About 300 men carried computers and ballot boxes from the building in Libya's second city and began crushing them while chanting pro-federalism slogans, a Reuters correspondent at the scene said.
"They ran into our building, set fire to some of our offices and broke our computers and the furniture," Haitham al-Taboly, who works for the election commission, told Reuters.
"We lost most of the administrative material we have worked on for months, but we hope we can retrieve some of it before the elections using backup storage."
The violence follows a series of security breaches in the coastal city, which was the cradle of last year's uprising that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule, adding to concerns of how safe Libya's first free national elections on July 7 will be.
Candidates, voters and election commission officials have called on the government to beef up security for the polls, which will elect a national assembly, to ensure the legitimacy of the vote.
Piles of voting lists, ballot papers and other documents were set ablaze at the gates to the election commission. Smoke billowed out of some of the windows in the building.
Taboly said the protesters were chanting for an equal number of seats in the 200-strong national assembly. The ruling National Transitional Council assigned 102 seats for Tripoli and 38 for the east according to population density of the regions.
The glass doors and windows of the commission were shattered and security forces cordoned off the area around the building.
"There wasn't enough security at the gates of the commission to stop the protesters, so they had to step back and let them storm the building," said Emad Al-Sayeh, deputy head of the High National Election Commission in the capital Tripoli.
NTC spokesman Saleh Darhoub said the main materials for the vote had not been damaged because they were stored in a secure a place. "This will not affect the vote date," he said.
The vote is a crucial milestone in shaping Libya's new institutions after last year's revolt. The Council of Cyrenaica, which wants autonomy for the eastern region around Benghazi, said it wanted guarantees of fair representation for Libya's provinces before the election took place.
The protesters began tearing up campaign posters and carried signs that read "Mustafa Abdel Jalil is a traitor of Cyrenaica", referring to the NTC chairman. Others said: "No Elections without a Constitution."
Graffiti reading "Cyraneica Headquarters" was painted across the walls of the building located 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from central Benghazi.
In May, a self-proclaimed autonomous council for Libya's oil-producing eastern province called on people in the region to boycott the election, saying it would not give adequate representation to the east.
Family is one of many who hope land they say was stolen by industrialists will be returned under Bangsamoro peace agreement
The prisoners are among hundreds rounded up during mass demonstrations by reformists protesting against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in presidential elections in 2009
Kenyatta will hold talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and senior government officials on enhancing ties
State Department spokeswoman said on Friday the U.S. Treasury Department would look into the matter to determine if there were any violations of sanctions imposed on Iran.
Al-Ahmad said that he briefed the top Egyptian diplomat about proposals made during recent trilateral meetings between the Palestinians, Israelis and Americans with the aim of reviving peace negotiations
The arrival of aid convoys into the coastal enclave has been recently hindered after Egyptian authorities tightened restrictions on the border with Gaza
Most of the delegates representing the SPLM-N have already arrived in the Ethiopian capital for the talks, scheduled to kick off Tuesday
The accident focused attention on the risks sherpas take and on overcrowding on Everest, where the number of fatal accidents has risen in recent decades, although it dropped last year.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry noted that its police were unable to operate in Slaviansk since pro-Moscow gunmen took over the town earlier this month
Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50 percent of the vote from the 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4 percent
The governor has accused the government of using Boko Haram pretext to commit genocide against the people of the north
Search for the missing 84 girls continues in the Sambisa forest
The bomb attack left five security guards dead as militants managed to take dozens of students and professors hostage after raiding the premises
Militants have killed 14 Algerian soldiers in an ambush during a patrol in mountains east of the capital Algiers
Egyptian-born cleric whose sermons have often admonished the authorities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said all views expressed in his preaching were his own and not those of Qatar.
Pictures posted on SANA's website showed Assad, dressed in a beige blazer, waving and examining antiquities as he toured the area with church officials