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Protesters set government building on fire in eastern Libya

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Protesters set fire to the government’s headquarters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as rare demonstrations over living conditions and corruption continued in the east of the country for a third day.

The protests late on Saturday also erupted in Al-Bayda, where the government was previously based, in Sabha in the south, and for the first time in Al-Marj, a stronghold of eastern based commander Khalifa Haftar, witnesses said.

In Al-Marj, residents said there were clashes between security personnel and protesters, and heavy gunfire could be heard in videos posted on social media. The U.N. mission to Libya expressed “grave concern” at reports that one civilian had been killed, three injured, and others arrested in the town.

Libya has been split into rival camps with parallel institutions in the east and west since 2014. Eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is aligned with a government and a rump parliament also based in the east.

The government, which holds little real power, submitted its resignation to the parliament on Sunday.

A 14-month offensive by the LNA to take control of the capital, Tripoli, from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) crumbled in June, weakening Haftar.

The protests have been fuelled by anger at the political elite and at deteriorating living conditions, including lengthy power cuts and a severe banking crisis.

Similar protests broke out in late August in western Libya.

In Benghazi the protesters, some armed, set fire to the government building, leaving its white facade charred black, according to witnesses.

The building was constructed after the LNA took control of Benghazi in 2017 following a campaign that left parts of the port city in ruins.

The economic crisis across Libya and power cuts in the east have been worsened by a blockade of most of the country’s oil facilities imposed by the LNA and its supporters since January.

The United States said on Saturday that Haftar had agreed to end the blockade, but sources in eastern Libya said negotiations were ongoing.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Daniel Wallis