Gaddafi – life and death of a rogue dictator
18:18 20/10/2011 MOSCOW, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - Muammar Gaddafi died the death he had predicted on Thursday – fighting to the last against his own people, who rose up against him after more than four decades of authoritarian rule.
The Libyan leader succumbed to wounds in the battle for Sirte, the last major stronghold of his supporters and his tribal home base.
Gaddafi ruled Libya for over 40 years in a rambling, eccentric style, hallmarked by his penchant for safari suits, sunglasses, Bedouin tents, epic-length speeches and a 40-member all-female bodyguard.
The Arab world's longest serving leader came to power in a bloodless coup on September 1, 1969, deposing King Idris al-Senussi and proclaiming a Libyan republic.
In 1977, Gaddafi renamed his country the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or "state of the masses," but he ruled through opaque decision-making and nepotism with his sons playing leading roles.
Libya had no political parties during his reign, as according to Gaddafi, the "party system is an abortion of democracy." He maintained tight control over society however, especially dissidents including Islamists, using "purging committees" to keep them in check.
In the 1980s, Gaddafi sent hit squads to murder exiled "stray dogs" who challenged the revolution. Islamist rebels at home were crushed in the 1990s.
He spent billions of dollars from oil revenues to improve living standards, making him a popular figure with some elements of the "masses."
As the fiery revolutionary he loved to portray himself as, Gaddafi also used oil revenues to fight "imperialism" throughout the world, even supporting the Irish Republican Army in its fight against British rule in Ulster.
Gaddafi was believed to be a major financier of the Black September Movement that perpetrated the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and was accused of being behind the 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 200, a significant number of whom were U.S. servicemen.
U.S. President Ronald Reagan called him a "mad dog" and sent warplanes to bomb Libya in response later that year, killing 60 people.
Libya also sponsored rebel movements across Africa, including the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, and anti-government rebels in Chad, which gained the country a long list of enemies.
In 1992, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Tripoli to pressure it to hand over two Libyan suspects in the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people were killed.
The war in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime caused many Arab leaders to think again about how easily they could be deposed at the whim of the United States. Muammar Gaddafi quickly learned the lessons of Iraq and revised his anti-Western policy.
He abandoned his country's covert nuclear weapons program and invited IAEA inspectors to visit the country's nuclear center in Tadjoura. In addition, without admitting Libya's guilt, Gaddafi agreed to pay compensation to the Lockerbie victims' families - $10 million for each of the 270 casualties.
In 2004, the U.S. lifted the economic embargo on Libya, and in 2006, the White House removed Libya from its list of states sponsoring international terrorism.
The recent uprisings in neighboring countries were his undoing, and he reacted to the insurrections in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt with characteristic bravado, sending messages of support to Tunisia's Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and to Egypt's Hosni Mubarak before they stepped down.
When protests also erupted in Libya, he was determined to crush them, and set about it with his characteristic brutality. Even the intervention of NATO did little to deter him and he fought to the bitter end, even after his capital fell and his family had fled.
In the last few days of his life he threatened to fight a guerilla war against the new government. With his demise and the fall of Sirte, the final traces of his regime seem likely to disappear into the sand.
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