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Muammar al- Qaddafi

Qaddafi, Muammar al- (mōäm-märˈ äl-käd-däˈfē) [key], 1942–2011, Libyan army officer and dictator. He graduated from the Univ. of Libya in 1963 and became an army officer in 1965. In 1969 he formed, along with a group of fellow officers, a secret revolutionary committee and led (1969) a successful coup against the monarchy of Idris I. Qaddafi established himself as Libya's commander in chief and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council.

Blending Arab nationalism, revolutionary socialism, and Islamic orthodoxy, he established a stridently anti-Western dictatorship and acquired a reputation for ruthless rule and eccentric personal behavior. British and American military bases were closed in 1970; in the same year the property of Libya's Italian and Jewish communities was confiscated. The ancient Qur'anic law of cutting off the hands of thieves was reinstituted, gambling and alcoholic beverages were outlawed, and all foreign petroleum assets were nationalized (1973). He also sought to unify Libya with other Arab countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, while bitterly opposing Israel.

The Libyan government supported many international terrorist and guerrilla organizations, including the Irish Republican Army, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and other extremist Arab and Islamic groups. In 1986 the United States sought to quell Libya's alleged terrorist activities by bombing several sites in Libya. Qaddafi survived, but several of his children were hurt or killed. In 1999, following the turning over of the suspects in the Lockerbie bombing, Qaddafi sought improved relations with Western European nations and issued a denunciation of terrorism. He also was a strong force behind the Organization of African Unity's decision to transform itself into the African Union.

There were a number of challenges to his rule, but none were successful until 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings. Widespread protests were brutally crushed in many cities, but with international support a rebellion took hold in E Libya and parts of W Libya and led to civil war. By Oct., 2011, the rebels had secured control of much of Libya, including the capital, when Qaddafi was killed in the battle for Sirte. His Green Book (2 vol., 1976–80) is a treatise on his version of Islamic socialism. His name is also spelled Moammar El-Gadhafi.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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