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Clashes erupt in Libya's Benghazi after blasts, protests

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - At least one soldier was killed in overnight fighting in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, a security official said on Monday, in violence that has surged since last week's killing of an anti-Islamist political activist.

The clashes erupted in the western Gwesha district between an armed group and military special forces, hours after explosions that targeted buildings used by the judiciary.

"Clashes broke out between special forces and an unknown armed group," Mohammed al-Hijazy, a spokesman for Benghazi security operations, said by telephone. "At least one soldier was killed. The special forces have now retaken control."

The cradle of the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, Benghazi has witnessed explosions, assassinations, violent demonstrations and a mass jail break in the last three days.

Violence and lawlessness, much of it involving former rebel groups, has hobbled governance in swathes of the oil-producing North African state since the war that toppled Gaddafi.

Forty-three people were wounded in Sunday's blasts, state news agency LANA said, citing the health minister. Demonstrators later took to the streets to denounce the violence.

Hundreds of protesters had attacked the Benghazi and Tripoli offices of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood and the headquarters of a liberal coalition in the capital after demonstrations turned violent late on Friday.

Those protests were prompted by the killing of prominent Brotherhood critic Abdelsalam al-Mosmary, who was shot after leaving a Benghazi mosque. Two military officers were also killed in the city on Friday.

On Saturday, 1,117 inmates escaped during a riot in Kuafiya prison on the outskirts of Benghazi. Officials said on Sunday that about 100 prisoners had been recaptured.

Violence has plagued Benghazi since last year with attacks on security forces as well as foreign targets, including an assault on the U.S. mission in September in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said he will reorganize the government to cope with the "urgent" situation in Libya.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; additional reporting by Ulf Laessing; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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