(Also: Muammar al-Qaddafi, Moammar El-Khadafi)
Libyan dictator. Born into a Bedouin family, near Surt, 1942. Killed by rebels at Sirte, October 20, 2011.
A well-educated man (he graduated with a Law degree from the University of Libya in 1963), Qaddafi was commissioned an officer in the Libyan army in 1965. Four years later, in 1969, he was part of a clique of officers which executed a successful coup d'état, removing Libya's King Idris I.
It is unclear what part Qaddafi played in planning the coup, but it is certain that, following the coup, Qaddafi became military commander-in-chief and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the governing body of the new Libyan state. With a unique and highly idiosyncratic blend of multiple political styles (ranging from Arab nationalism to socialism to Islamic fundamentalism), Qaddafi cast Libya into the rôle of "lone wolf" - not just a solitary opponent of the Western world, but also an outsider among Islamic nations.
In 1970, Libya closed foreign military bases, expelling the British and American forces present in the country. The same year, Libya's large Italian and Jewish minorities were subjected to persecution and confiscation of property. Over the following years, Qaddafi reinstituted shari'a (Islamic law), outlawed alcohol, and nationalised the oil industry.
Though Qaddafi continually proclaimed a desire to create a greater Arab state, comprising Libya, Egypt and Tunisia (negotiations were also undertaken with Syria, Chad, Morocco and Algeria), nothing ever came of his rather strident proclamations - largely due to the fact that he was perceived as a "loose cannon". He also supported any and all opposition to the state of Israel, a country for which he reserved his bitterest rhetoric.
From the 1970s on, Qaddafi has been internationally acknowledged as one of the major supporters of various terrorist groups, giving aid to such varied groups as the Irish Republican Army, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. He has also been a strong supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The late 1970s also saw the publication of his political manifesto, The Green Book (1976-1980, 2 volumes), advocating revolutionary Islamic socialism. In 1977, he launched the new Libyan state system, the jamahiriyah ("state of the masses"). Though he gave up all formal positions in government in 1979, the new state form meant that he effectively retained all power.
His continual extremism and support of terrorism has made Qaddafi a prime target for, among others, the United States of America. In 1986, an American bombing raid (Operation El Dorado Canyon, in response to a bombing of a disco in Berlin) on Libya targeted several of the usual locations of Qaddafi, but failed to kill him. The bombings, however, injured several of his children, and killed his infant daughter. The United States was universally condemned in the Arab world for this action, seen as an act of terrorism in itself, and many other nations in the Western world added their criticism of the action.
In the late 1990s, Qaddafi, ever unpredictable, changed his style. Presenting himself as a seeker of peace, he handed over the suspects in the Lockerbie/Pan Am bombing (widely believed to have been a Libyan-run operation). Despite the more conciliatory tone in his recent utterances, Qaddafi remains the target of much Western animosity.
On September 11, 2001, Qaddafi issued the following statement (through JANA, the Libyan news service), in response to the events in New York and Washington:
No matter what the political differences and conflicts with America were, such differences should not stand as a psychological barrier hindering humanitarian assistance and help to the American citizens, and all people in America who were severely effected by these horrifying attacks, particularly after the American hospitals announced shortages of blood needed by the victims.
We call on the International Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the International Green Crescent and all international humanitarian organizations to speed-up humanitarian assistance regardless of political considerations or differences between America and the peoples of the world... We will not be hypocrites as to announce other than what we conceal... Irrespective of the conflict with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people and be with them at these horrifying, and awesome events which are bound to awaken human conscience.
We must think of how to ensure that supplies be dispatched to the victims and those effected in spite of the difficult circumstances announced in America such as halting air flights and communications breakdown. The world should think about practical means to deliver supplies to the victims. We are awaiting an American announcement on how to secure that such humanitarian assistance reach its destination.
Everybody should work to make humanitarian considerations prevail over political stance and offer aid to the victims of this horrifying act.