The strong man dictator of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, who brutally ruled Libya for 42 years, was killed October 20, when revolutionary forces overwhelmed Sirte, the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell on August 23, 2011 in a civil revolution backed by NATO. Gaddafi had been holed up with the last of his fighters in the furious battle with National Transitional Council revolutionary fighters who had been assaulting the last few buildings the Qaddafi loyalists held in his Mediterranean coastal hometown of Sirte.
On the morning of October 20, Qaddafi was in a high speed convoy of 75 armored vehicles trying to escape from Sirte. The first NATO airstrike damaged or destroyed eleven of them. Then some 20 vehicles broke away from the convoy moving south. A second NATO airstrike damaged or destroyed half of these. Among the damaged vehicles was the one that contained Qaddafi. Wounded but alive, Qaddafi jumped out of his car and took refuge in a storm drainage pipe where he was captured by the revolutionary forces.
The dazed and confused Gaddafi, bleeding heavily from a deep wound on the left side of his head, from his arm, and from other injuries to his neck and torso, was led from the storm drain pipe where he was captured. He was surrounded by revolutionaries with weapons shouting "God is great" and firing in the air, before being put on to a pickup truck which brought him to an ambulance where he was pronounced dead.
Qaddafi was an egocentric, erratic, flamboyant, arrogant dictator who held together the diverse Libyan tribal conflicts by force and terror. Libya, under Qaddafi, was the most censored state in the Middle East and North Africa. His regime was denounced as a Pariah state for oppressing internal dissidence and for state sponsored terrorism. He had a dream for Afican unity with himself as the King of kings of Africa. Qaddafi's regime had the worst human rights record. Qaddafi had no qualms about using his aircraft and soldiers on his own people even before their peaceful protests grew into armed revolution. Political opponents to his oppressive regime were routinely kidnapped, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and killed.
The people of Libya pushed for political reforms beginning on February 15, 2011. They protested in front of Benghazi's police headquarters after the arrest of human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil. The police broke up the protest. Thirty eight people were injured. The protests in Benghazi escalated and spread across the country. The protests reached such strength by February 18, that the police and army personnel withdrew from Benghazi after being overwhelmed by protesters. Gaddafi responded with an iron-fisted crackdown by his security forces who massacred hundreds. On February 19, Qaddafi first used helicopter gunships, artillery, and antiaircraft missile launchers to fire into crowds of the anti-government protesters to kill and injure them. This is also the first date that the protestors made retaliatory attacks on the mercenaries hired by Qaddafi. As such it marks the formal start of the Libyan civil war.
As the protest movement spread, thousands were killed or injured by machine guns and heavy calibre weapons. The Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, called Gaddafi's actions genocide.
The United Nations Security Council urged Libyan authorities to act with restraint, respect human rights and grant immediate access to rights monitors and aid agencies. The Security Council told Qaddafi to respect freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The protestors responded to Qaddafi's genocide by arming themselves and formed a rag tag revolutionary militia.
On March 17, 2001, the UN Security Council authorized its member states to take "all necessary measures" to protect the Libyan civilians against Qaddafi forces. The resolution's sweeping language and the use of the diplomatic code words "all necessary measures" in effect authorized military action against Qaddafi, including a no-fly zone, and strikes on his air force, tanks and heavy artillery. NATO enforced a no-fly zone to prevent Qaddafi's airplanes from attacking the Libyan people. Qaddafi tried to used tanks to squash the rebellion. NATO responded by organizing air strikes against Qaddafi's tanks and heavy artillary. By August 23, 2011, the revolutionary militia was able to storm Qaddafi's compount in Tripoli. This marked the beginning of the end of Qaddafi.
The family of Qaddafi and the family of his sons lead a luxurious life style including multiple lavish homes in Tripoli and Sirte. The city of Sirte where Qaddafi had hidden for the last few months of his life was his second capital. Sirte had been a fishing village. Qaddafi transformed it to a home for his family and his sons' families where they lived an opulent life style in the midst of the poverty of the rest of Sirte.
Qaddafi spent some of Libya's revenue on personal security, building up a militia loyal to his family that was implicated in some of his worst human-rights violations. Those include what Human Rights Watch described as the "mass killing" of as many as 1,200 people at Tripoli's Abu Salem prison in 1996. It is now known that he or his sons took a cut of almost all significant business transactions in Libya. This was the way the Qaddafi family was able to accumulate what is now estimated to be over 200 billion dollars in various international bank accounts and investments.