Deadly clashes in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura have left eight dead – including three senior commanders from the Libya Dawn militia – and 25 wounded in chaotic early morning fighting for control of the town's prison which allowed 'hundreds' of inmates to escape.

Claims on social media put the number of escaped prisoners at 400 but sources on the ground said the numbers were likely far lower. One Tripoli resident told IBTimes UK that the worst of the damage done to the prison was caused when a missile struck the building, allowing those inside to flee.

Tajoura has been a thorn in the side of the Libya Dawn militias which took control of the capital Tripoli in August 2014. Local fighters and residents, sympathetic to the Libyan National Army, the opposing force to Dawn in Libya's fractious civil war, have staged a series of protests and attacks against the coalition of Islamist and Misratan brigades in the capital.

Sporadic clashes have broken out across Tripoli in recent months as ties between the forces within the Libya Dawn coalition fracture. The security vacuum in the Libyan capital has allowed the Islamic State (IS) an operational presence there, albeit a limited one according to a recent UN report.

The offshoot of IS in Libya is suspected of carrying out a car bomb attack killing five members of the military police with and wounding 14 near the western city of Khoms, some 120km east of the capital Tripoli on 24 November.

Amid the increased lawlessness in Tripoli itself, the Maltese press has reported the disappearance of Malta national Pierre Baldacchino, a manager at the private Saint James Hospital in Tripoli.

The Times of Malta reported that efforts were underway to identify the hostage takers and establish contact with them to secure the release of the father of two. Two months ago another Maltese national was abducted in Tajoura and held for 47 days before his release.