On 20 October 2011, the Libya National Transitional Council announced that it had captured Moammar Gadhafi during its offensive in the city of Sirte. The NTC also announced that Gadhafi had subsequently died of wounds sustained during his capture. These wounds were reported to have been sustained as he tried to escape NTC forces. Gadhafi was reportedly found hiding in a large drainage pipe. NATO reported that they had been warned he might attempt to flee the city in a convoy, which was subsequently attacked by NATO aircraft.
The proliferation of spellings for the name of Libya's leader had long been one of the more interesting aspects of Libya. There were several problems. There was no generally accepted authority for romanizing Arabic names [unlike, for instance, Pin-yin or Wade-Giles for Chinese. The Libyan leader's name contained several sounds that have no exact equivalent in English. The matter was further complicated by regional pronunciation differences, since Libyans tend to pronounce the first sylable of the leader's name with a hard G, which had become the source of further variant spellings. In cases where there was doubt about the transliteration of a personal name, the usual convention was to accept the preference of the namee. In May 1986, he responded to a letter from some second-graders at Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul, Minnesota, signing the letter in Arabic script, beneath which was typed Moammar El-Gadhafi. The Library of Congress Country Study on Libya chose Muammar al Qadhafi, while the Library's Name Authority Record indicates the Library had chosen the spelling Muammar Qaddafi. The Voice of America also prefers Muammar Qaddafi [pronounced "moo-AH-mahr geh-DAAH-fee"], while the Central Intelligence Agency uses Muammar Qadhafi.
Libyan leader Qadhafi was a leading advocate of Pan-Arabism and viewed himself as a revolutionary voice for developing countries and defender against Western imperialism and Zionist influences. His ideology had led to numerous unsuccessful attempts to form unions with other Arab states, support to insurgent and opposition movements in developing countries, and an extended period of confrontation with the United States and, more recently, the United Nations. Although Qadhafi had retreated from supporting subversion, destabilization, and terrorism in hopes of having the UN sanctions against Libya lifted, Libya had retained a significant infrastructure to support terrorist activities against Western interests.
Muammar al Qadhafi was born in a beduin tent in the desert near Surt in 1942. His family belonged to a small tribe of Arabized Berbers, the Qadhafa, who are stockherders with holdings in the Hun Oasis. As a boy, Qadhafi attended a Muslim elementary school, during which time the major events occurring in the Arab world--the Arab defeat in Palestine in 1948 and Nasser's rise to power in Egypt in 1952--profoundly influenced him. He finished his secondary school studies under a private tutor in Misratah, paying particular attention to the study of history.
Qadhafi formed the essential elements of his political philosophy and his world view as a schoolboy. His education was entirely Arabic and strongly Islamic, much of it under Egyptian teachers. From this education and his desert background, Qadhafi derived his devoutness and his austere, even puritanical, code of personal conduct and morals. Essentially an Arab populist, Qadhafi held family ties to be important and upheld the beduin code of egalitarian simplicity and personal honor, distrusting sophisticated, axiomatically corrupt, urban politicians. Qadhafi's ideology, fed by Radio Cairo during his formative years, was an ideology of renascent Arab nationalism on the Egyptian model, with Nasser as hero and the Egyptian revolution as a guide.
In Libya, as in a number of other Arab countries, admission to the military academy and a career as an army officer became available to members of the lower economic strata only after independence. A military career offered a new opportunity for higher education, for upward economic and social mobility, and was for many the only available means of political action and rapid change. For Qadhafi and many of his fellow officers, who were animated by Nasser's brand of Arab nationalism as well as by an intense hatred of Israel, a military career was a revolutionary vocation.
Qadhafi entered the Libyan military academy at Binghazi in 1961 and, along with most of his colleagues from the Revolutionary Command Council [RCC], graduated in the 1965-66 period. After receiving his commission, he was selected for several months of further training at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England. Qadhafi's association with the Free Officers Movement began during his days as a cadet. The frustration and shame felt by Libyan officers who stood by helplessly at the time of Israel's swift and humiliating defeat of Arab armies on three fronts in 1967 fueled their determination to contribute to Arab unity by overthrowing the Libyan monarchy.
On September 1, 1969, in a daring coup d'état, a group of about seventy young army officers and enlisted men, mostly assigned to the Signal Corps, seized control of the government and in a stroke abolished the Libyan monarchy. The coup was launched at Benghazi, and within two hours the takeover was completed. Army units quickly rallied in support of the coup, and within a few days firmly established military control in Tripoli and elsewhere throughout the country. Popular reception of the coup, especially by younger people in the urban areas, was enthusiastic. Fears of resistance in Cyrenaica and Fezzan proved unfounded. No deaths or violent incidents related to the coup were reported.
At the onset of RCC rule, Qadhafi and his associates insisted that their government would not rest on individual leadership, but rather on collegial decision making. However, Qadhafi's ascetic but colorful personality, striking appearance, energy, and intense ideological style soon created an impression of Qadhafi as dictator and the balance of the RCC as little more than his rubber stamp.
As months passed, Qadhafi, caught up in his apocalyptic visions of revolutionary pan-Arabism and Islam locked in mortal struggle with what he termed the encircling, demonic forces of reaction, imperialism, and Zionism, increasingly devoted attention to international rather than internal affairs. As a result, routine administrative tasks fell to Major Jallud, who in 1972 became prime minister in place of Qadhafi. Two years later Jallud assumed Qadhafi's remaining administrative and protocol duties to allow Qadhafi to devote his time to revolutionary theorizing. Qadhafi remained commander in chief of the armed forces and effective head of state.
An assassination attempt was made on Khadaffi in September 1996 by Libyan fundamentalists. In August 1988 David Shayler, who held a mid-level position in MI5, Britain's domestic security agency, claimed that he had learned that MI6 [Britain's Secret Intelligence Service] channeled US $160,000 to an underground group in Libya to assassinate Khadaffi. An MI6 agent, Richard Tomlinson, who worked with Shayler on the MI5/MI6 Libyan task force, defected to New Zealand. Tomlinson backed Shayler's charges.
Qadhafi's state visits and appearances at various conferences and summits, both at home and abroad, have revealed greater details about his personality and character. While it was tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Qadhafi was a complicated individual who managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods.
Muammar al-Qadhafi had been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and first-hand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his 2009 UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations. From the moment Qadhafi's staff began to prepare for his travel to the United States, various proclivities and phobias began to reveal themselves in every logistical detail. When applying for Qadhafi's visa, protocol staff asked whether it was necessary for the Leader to submit a portrait of himself that fit consular application regulations, noting that his photo was displayed throughout the city and that anyone of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the application's criteria. When the rule was enforced, protocol staff reluctantly conceded to take a portrait of the Leader specifically for the visa application.
The Leader must stay on the first floor of any facility that was rented for him. Qadhafi could not climb more than 35 steps. This requirement as the primary reason that the Libyan residence in New Jersey was selected as the preferred accommodation site rather than the Libyan PermRep's residence in New York City. The Libyans also sought to find accommodations with room to pitch Qadhafi's Bedouin tent, Qadhafi's traditional site for receiving visitors and conducting meetings, as it offers him a non-verbal way of communicating that he was a man close to his cultural roots.
Qadhafi's dislike of long flights and apparent fear of flying over water also caused logistical headaches. The Libyan delegation would arrive from Portugal, as Qadhafi cannot fly more than eight hours and would need to overnight in Europe prior to continuing his journey to New York. Qadhafi did not like to fly over water. Presumably for similar reasons, Qadhafi's staff also requested a stop in Newfoundland to break his travel from Venezuela to Libya on 29 September 2009 [the Libyan delegation canceled plans to stop in Newfoundland].
Qadhafi's reported female guard force had become legendary. But only one female guard was included among the approximately 350-person strong Libyan delegation to New York in September 2009. This was the same female bodyguard who sticks close to Qadhafi in his domestic and international public appearances and may, in fact, play some sort of formal security role. Observers in Tripoli speculate that the female guard force was beginning to play a diminished role among the Leader's personal security staff.
Qadhafi appears to be almost obsessively dependent on a small core of trusted personnel. The Ukrainian nurses travel everywhere with the Leader. Qadhafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna, who had been described as a "voluptuous blonde." Of the rumored staff of four Ukrainian nurses that cater to the Leader's health and well-being, Qadhafi cannot travel without at least one, as she alone knows his routine. Some have claimed that Qadhafi and the 38 year-old have a romantic relationship.
Qadhafi's preferences for dancing and cultural performances were displayed in September 2009. The three-day spectacle of his 40th anniversary in power included performances by dance troupes from Ukraine, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco, as well as musical performances by bands from Mexico, Russia, New Zealand, and a number of other nations. Qadhafi appeared particularly enthralled by Tuareg horse racing during two of the events, clapping and smiling throughout the races. The flamenco dancers that participated in his celebratory events appeared to spark a similar interest, as Qadhafi decided to stop in Seville on his way back to Libya from Venezuela specifically to attend a flamenco dance performance [that stop was reportedly scrapped for unknown reasons].
Qadhafi was said to be a hypochondriac who obsesses about his physical ailments and insists that all examinations and procedures be filmed, and then spent hours reviewing them with physicians whom he trusted. There are some reports that al-Qadhafi suffered from hypertension and was borderline diabetic, but that he did not suffer from cancer. There have been reports that a medical specialist, usually described as either Austrian or Swiss, recently traveled to Libya to supervise cancer therapy for al-Qadhafi, amid reports that al-Qadhafi suffers from throat or prostate cancer.
Qadhafi -- who was described as "extremely vain" -- had botox treatments. The attendant loss of control of facial muscles could have been misinterpreted as a sign that al-Qadhafi had suffered a stroke. In addition, al-Qadhafi had within the past year had hair implants; however, he had suffered a rare auto-immune reaction to the procedure and the plugs had had to be removed.
Speculation about al-Qadhafi's health was a perennial feature of the rumor mill here. In televised coverage of al-Qadhafi's 10 June 2009 arrival in Rome that he appeared to be tentative in descending the steps from his aircraft to the tarmac. In the run-up to al-Qadhafi's visit to Spain in December 2007 that GOL officials had insisted that the Leader not be housed above the first floor of the hotel in which he stayed and that his room have as few stairs as possible. When pressed, Libyan officials conceded that al-Qadhafi had difficulty physically negotiating stairs. While the specific nature of his physical ailments remains unconfirmed, it did appear that he was not entirely well. Compared to meetings with al-Qadhafi in 2004-2005, his face was much heavier and more slack in appearance now than it was then, and that he appears to have more difficulty moving. Qadhafi's schedule of meetings - especially at night - was less intensive than it used to be and that he spends more time resting during the day, complicating the process of scheduling meetings for him. That said, in 2011 he was 69 and maintains a very active international travel schedule.
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