In February 2011, following revolutions in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia, protests against Gadhafi's rule began. These escalated into an uprising that spread across the country, with the forces opposing Gadhafi establishing a government based in Benghazi named the National Transitional Council (NTC). This led to the 2011 Libyan civil war, which included a military intervention by a NATO-led coalition to enforce a UN Security Council Resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone and protection of civilians in Libya. The assets of Gadhafi and his family were frozen, and both Interpol and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants on 27 June for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi, concerning crimes against humanity.
For most of their history, the peoples of Libya have been subjected to varying degrees of foreign control. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya. Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the presence of these ancient cultures.
The Arabs conquered Libya in the seventh century A.D. In the following centuries, most of the indigenous peoples adopted Islam and the Arabic language and culture. The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century. Libya remained part of their empire, although at times virtually autonomous, until Italy invaded in 1911 and, in the face of years of resistance, made Libya a colony.
In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony, which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two world wars. Allied forces removed Axis powers from Libya in February 1943. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica came under separate British administration, while the French controlled Fezzan. In 1944, Idris returned from exile in Cairo but declined to resume permanent residence in Cyrenaica until the removal of some aspects of foreign control in 1947. Under the terms of the 1947 peace treaty with the Allies, Italy relinquished all claims to Libya.
On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952. King Idris I represented Libya in the subsequent UN negotiations. When Libya declared its independence on December 24, 1951, it was the first country to achieve independence through the United Nations and one of the first former European possessions in Africa to gain independence. Libya was proclaimed a constitutional and a hereditary monarchy under King Idris.
The discovery of significant oil reserves in 1959 and the subsequent income from petroleum sales enabled what had been one of the world's poorest countries to become extremely wealthy, as measured by per capita GDP. Although oil drastically improved Libya's finances, popular resentment grew as wealth was increasingly concentrated in the hands of the elite. This discontent continued to mount with the rise throughout the Arab world of Nasserism and the idea of Arab unity.
On September 1, 1969, a small group of military officers led by then 28-year-old army officer Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi staged a coup d'etat against King Idris, who was subsequently exiled to Egypt. The new regime, headed by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the new Libyan Arab Republic. Qadhafi emerged as leader of the RCC and eventually as de facto head of state. The Libyan Government asserts that Qadhafi holds no official position, although he is referred to in government statements and the official press as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution," among other honorifics.
The new RCC's motto became "freedom, socialism, and unity." It pledged itself to remedy "backwardness," take an active role in the Palestinian cause, promote Arab unity, and encourage domestic policies based on social justice, non-exploitation, and an equitable distribution of wealth.
An early objective of the new government was withdrawal of all foreign military installations from Libya. Following negotiations, British military installations at Tobruk and nearby El Adem were closed in March 1970, and U.S. facilities at Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli were closed in June 1970. That July, the Libyan Government ordered the expulsion of several thousand Italian residents. By 1971, libraries and cultural centers operated by foreign governments were ordered closed.
After the 1969 coup, Qadhafi closed American and British bases on Libyan territory and partially nationalized all foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya. He also played a key role in promoting the use of oil embargoes as a political weapon for challenging the West, hoping that an oil price rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West, especially the United States, to end support for Israel. Qadhafi rejected both Soviet communism and Western capitalism, and claimed he was charting a middle course.
(Background Note: Libya, US DEPARTMENT OF STATE at state.gov)
Muammar Gadhafi abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951, and adopted laws based on his own ideology. Under Gaddafi, Libya was theoretically a decentralized, democratic state run according to the philosophy of Gaddafi's Green Book, with Gaddafi retaining a ceremonial position. Libya was officially run by a system of people's committees which served as local governments for the country's subdivisions, an indirectly-elected General People's Congress as the legislature, and the General People's Committee, led by a Secretary-General, as the executive branch.
Muammar Gadhafi ruled Libya for more than 40 years by banning and brutally opposing any individual or group opposing the ideology of his 1969 revolution, criminalizing the peaceful exercise of expression and association, refusing to permit independent journalists' and lawyers' organizations, and engaging in torture and extrajudicial executions, including the 1,200 detainees killed in Abu Salim Prison in June 1996. Libya took formal responsibility for the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, 189 of whom were U.S. citizens and high-ranking Libyan officials have indicated that Muammar Gadhafi personally ordered the attack.
The demands of the Libyan people began much like those of their neighbors in North Africa and the Middle East--for the protection of their universal rights, for greater political freedom and representative government, for justice and opportunity. But the response of Qadhafi and those still loyal to him stood in stark contrast to the inspiring events of what some called the Arab spring. Qadhafi unleashed a merciless campaign of violence against the Libyan people, including civilian noncombatants, using every tool at his disposal, from artillery barrages, to airstrikes, to the employment of foreign mercenaries.
On February 16, 2011 Libyan protesters clashed with police in an anti-government demonstration inspired by the uprisings that brought down the rulers of Libya's neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. Opposition activists, organizing through social media, rallied against the country's long-time leader, Muammar Gadhafi, in the country's second-biggest city,
By February 23, 2011 a massive evacuation of foreigners from Libya was underway by air, sea and land. Tens of thousands of foreigners in Libya were boarding planes, ships and, in some cases, overcrowded vans in an effort to flee the chaos that has erupted from opposition protests and a government crackdown. Two Turkish vessels picked up 3,000 Turks from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi Wednesday, as part of what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the biggest evacuation operation in Turkey's history. Benghazi's airport has been shut down for several days, forcing nations to evacuate foreigners by sea. About 25,000 Turks resided in Libya when the unrest began, many of them working in construction. Chinese state media said Beijing also was organizing an air, sea and land operation to evacuate up to 33,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.
The United Nations Security Council and the international community condemned the violence and use of force against civilians in Libya and on February 26, 2011, the United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed to refer the ongoing situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including the provision of mercenary personnel, freezed the financial assets of Muammar Gadhafi and certain family members, and impose a travel ban on Gadhafi, certain family members and senior advisors.
On March 10, 2011, the Government of France recognized the Libyan Transitional National Council, based in Benghazi, as the sole legitimate government of Libya and has announced its intention to send an ambassador there. Their senior leaders consist of longstanding critics of Qadhafi as well as officials who recently broke with his regime. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi's former justice minister, emerged as leader of Libyan National Transitional Council. The council withheld names of members in other cities like Zawiya, Nalot, Musrata, Zentan, Zawara, Tripoli, Jado.
On 19 April 2011, the United Kingdom announced that it was sending military advisers to assist the rebel forces in Libya. Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the deployment of advisers was within the provisions of UN Security Resolution 1973, which expressly forbade a foreign occupation of Libya. On 20 April 2011, France and Italy also announced their intention to send similar advisory elements to Libya. Italy posted eight combat aircraft for Libyan airstrikes on April 27 2011, with additional aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone.
The Polish Foreign Minister arrived in Benghazi to show Poland's support for the future of Libya on May 11, 2011. May 12, 2011 saw British Foreign Secretary William Hague recognize Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan people." PM David Cameron also invited the rebels to establish a permanent office in London. Greece announced plans to send humainitarian aid ships, including a modible hospital, to Benghazi on May 14, 2011.
In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has spearheaded UN-backed NATO intervention, pledged stronger military action at his first meeting with the leader of the opposition Libyan National Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
French military sources said Sarkozy had won approval from NATO to carry out more air strikes and France had moved six fighter jets from Corsica to the southern Greek island of Crete, closer to Libya, for that purpose.
Italy, the former colonial power in Libya that provided air bases for the NATO mission but said its own planes will not open fire, said it may send 10 military trainers as part of increased Western efforts to help the badly pressured rebels.
U.S. President Barack Obama opposed sending U.S. ground troops to Libya, the White House said, but he supported a French and British move to dispatch military advisers to help rebels fighting Gadhafi.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden insisted in an interview with the Financial Times that U.S. strike aircraft, requested by France, were not needed to achieve the alliance's goal in Libya.
"If the Lord Almighty extricated the U.S. out of NATO and dropped it on the planet of Mars so we were no longer participating, it is bizarre to suggest that NATO and the rest of the world lacks the capacity to deal with Libya — it does not," he was quoted as saying. "Occasionally other countries lack the will, but this is not about capacity," Biden said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommended $25 million in commodities and services for Libyan rebels that would not include weapons, the State Department said. Obama still must sign off on this provision of aid such as radios, body armour and halal ready-to-eat-meals, spokesman Mark Toner said.
France's decision to send up to 10 military advisers to work with the rebels came a day after Britain, the other main leader of the coalition, announced a similar move.
(Sarkozy tells Libyan rebels: "We will help you" by Emmanuel Jarry and Michael Georgy, Reuters April 20, 2011)
When international disagreements deteriorate to the point when Washington felt it has no choice but to use massive military force, the person held most responsible is ruthlessly hunted down. Manuel Noriega, Panama's mafia boss in the 1980s, was toppled in a US invasion in 1989 and ended up in a maximum security jail in Illinois. Slobodan Milosevic was put on trial in The Hague, where he died in custody. Saddam Hussein was dug out of a hole and sent to the gallows.
Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was similarly blunt. "It is our belief that if Mr Gadhafi loses the capacity to enforce his will through vastly superior armed forces, he simply will not be able to sustain his grip on the country," he said.
Nicolas Sarkozy, Cameron's co-hawk, has been busy swapping insults with Gadhafi, with all the appearance of a personal vendetta. After the Libyan leader said the French president had "gone mad", Sarkozy responded in kind, condemning Gadhafi's "murderous madness".
Sarkozy has also spoken of "targeted" actions – meaning assassination – should Gadhafi authorise the use of his stores of mustard gas or other WMD. Even normally measured Barack Obama had been getting hot under the collar about the man Ronald Reagan branded a "mad dog".
Taken by itself, such name-calling might not matter so much. But the larger, unavoidable conclusion was that capturing or killing Gaddafi has then became an end in itself for the western allies (though perhaps not their Arab coalition partners), and that the war would not be deemed "won" until this objective was attained.
The implications were serious. The missiles and B52s began their dreadful work, Gadhafi knew, if he didn't already, that hewas in a fight to the finish – and for him, there may be no escape. His course of action in the coming days would be influenced by this realization, and may be consequently more extreme and more aggressive than otherwise.
His defiant overnight statement, when he condemned the "crusader colonialism" afflicting his country, was clearly aimed at Arab and Muslim world opinion in particular, and the non-western world in general (major countries such as China, India, Brazil and Germany have not supported the intervention). Regime claims about mounting civilian deaths will play big there, Iraq-style. Gaddafi would press his propaganda advantage for all its worth.
The demonization of Gadhafi has made it impossible for western leaders to countenance his continuation in power. But without the ground invasion they have pledged not to undertake, he could well survive as the overlord of western and southern Libya following a de facto partition, hostile, vengeful and highly dangerous.
This seemed to be his plan. Far from giving up or drawing back, Gadhafi escalated the fighting around Benghazi at the weekend. Rather than abandon cities such as Zawiya, as Obama demanded, he was reportedly moving his troops into urban areas where they can less easily be targeted from the air. Meanwhile, his apparent willingness to use "human shields", his threats of retaliation across the Mediterranean area, and his designation of the whole of North Africa as a "war zone" raised the specter of possible terrorist attacks and an alarming regression to his old ways.
Gadhafi has personalized this war, too. And he was not going to go quietly. Military superiority in the air will count for nothing if pro-regime army and air force units, militia and security forces, and civilian and tribal supporters who had remained loyal refused to turn on him or kick him out of Tripoli. By its determination to "get Gadhafi", the west has made this a fight to the death – and death may be a long time in coming.
(Simon Tisdall, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 March 2011 11.01 GM)
The Libyan Transitional National Council has set up a rival government in Benghazi. The 45-member Council includes representatives from throughout Libya and is headed by Chairman (and former Qadhafi Minister of Justice) Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The Council acts as the opposition’s legislative branch and has appointed an executive committee, headed by Mahmoud Jibril, to oversee interim governance issues. The TNC has stated repeatedly its desire to serve only as an interim body and has issued plans to draft a constitution and hold nationwide elections as soon as Qadhafi was removed from power.
(Background Note: Libya, US DEPARTMENT OF STATE at state.gov)
Gadhafi and his forces lost the Battle of Tripoli in August and on 16 September 2011 the NTC took Libya's seat at the UN, replacing Gadhafi. He retained control over parts of Libya, most notably the city of Sirte, to which it was presumed that he had fled. Although Gadhafi's forces initially held out against the NTC's advances, Gadhafi was captured alive after his convoy was attacked by NATO warplanes as Sirte fell on 20 October 2011 but was killed by the rebels the same day.
A National Transitional Council (NTC) official told Al Jazeera that Gadhafi had been captured that day by Libyan forces near his hometown of Sirte. He had been in a convoy of vehicles that was targeted by a US Predator Missile which was followed by a French air strike on a road about 3 kilometres (2 mi) west of Sirte, killing dozens of loyalist fighters. Gadhafi survived but was wounded and took refuge with several of his bodyguards in a drain underneath the road west of the city. Around noon NTC fighters found the group and took Gadhafi prisoner. Shortly afterward, he was shot dead. At least four mobile phone videos showed rebels beating Gadhafi and manhandling him on the back of a utility vehicle before his death. One video suggested he was sodomized "with some kind of stick or knife" or possibly a bayonet, after his capture. In another video, he was seen being rolled around on the ground as rebels pulled off his shirt, though it was unclear if he was already dead. Later pictures of his body showed that he had wounds in the abdomen, chest, and head. A rebel who identified himself as Senad el-Sadik el-Ureybi later claimed to have shot and killed Gadhafi. He claimed to have shot Gaddafi in the head and chest, and that it took half an hour for him to die. Gadhafi's body was subsequently flown to Misrata and was placed in the freezer of a local market alongside the bodies of Defense Minister Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr and his son and national security adviser Moatassem Gadhafi. The bodies were put on public display for four days contrary to Islamic custom, with Libyans from all over the country coming to view them. Many took pictures on their cell phones.
Libya's Prime Minister and several NTC figures confirmed Gadhafi's death, claiming he died of wounds suffered during his capture. News channels aired a graphic video claiming to be of Gadhafi's bloodied body after capture. However on 28 October 2011, widespread revulsion outside Libya at the manner of Gadhafi's death prompted the interim government to promise to bring his killers to trial.
On 25 October 2011, the National Transitional Council announced that Gadhafi was buried at an unidentified location in the desert. Later Al Aan TV showed amateur video footage of the funeral taking place at an undisclosed location.