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Muammar al-Qaddafi seized control of the Libyan government in 1969, and ruled as an authoritarian dictator for more than 40 years before he was overthrown in 2011.
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Muammar al-Qaddafi was born in a Bedouin tent in Sirte, Libya, in 1942. He joined the military and staged a coup to seize control of Libya in 1969, ousting King Idris. Though his Arab nationalist rhetoric and socialist-style policies gained him support in the early days of his rule, his corruption, military interference in Africa, and record of human rights abuses turned much of the Libyan population against him. Accused of supporting terrorism,
in the last decade of his rule Qaddafi reached a rapprochement with Western leaders, and Libya became a key provider of oil to Europe. During the "Arab Spring" of 2011, NATO troops supported dissidents attempting to overthrow Qaddafi's government. After months on the run, on October 20, 2011, Qaddafi was killed in his hometown of Sirte.
Muammar al-Qaddafi was born on June 7, 1942, in the town of Sirte, in western Libya. Raised in a Bedouin tent in the Libyan desert, he came from a tribal family called the al-Qadhafah. At the time of his birth, Libya was an Italian colony. In 1951, Libya gained independence under the Western-allied King Idris. As a young man Qaddafi was influenced by the Arab nationalist movement, and admired Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. In 1961 he entered the military college in the city of Benghazi. He spent four months recieving military training in the United Kingdom. After graduating, Qaddafi steadily rose through the ranks of the military. As disaffection with King Idris grew, Qaddafi became involved with a movement of young officers to overthrow the king. A talented and charismatic man, Qaddafi political opposition movement. On September 1, 1969, King Idris was overthrown while he was abroad in Turkey for medical treatment. He was named commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Libya's new ruling body. At age 27, Qaddafi had become the ruler of Libya.
Qaddafi's first order of business was to shut down the American and British military bases in Libya. He also demanded that foreign oil companies in Libya share a bigger portion of revenue with the country. Qaddafi replaced the Gregorian calendar with the Islamic one, and forbid the sale of alcohol.
Feeling threatened by a failed coup attempt by his fellow officers in December 1969, Qaddafi put in laws criminalizing political dissent. In 1970, he expelled the remaining Italians from Libya, and emphasized what he saw as the battle between Arab nationalism and western imperialism. He vocally opposed Zionism and Israel, and expelled the Jewish community from Libya. Qaddafi's inner circle of trusted people became smaller and smaller, as power was shared by himself and a small group of family and friends. His intelligence agents traveled around the world to intimidate and assassinate Libyans living in exile.
In these early days, Qaddafi sought to orient Libya away from the West, and towards the Middle East and Africa. He involved the Libyan military in several foreign conflicts, including in Egypt and Sudan, and the bloody civil war in Chad.
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Ruthless, corrupt and crazy. Many of the world's dicators started out as charismatic young leaders, with a large measure of support from their countrymen—only to become bloated with power and abandon the principles they had pledged to uphold. These leaders held on to power by rigidly enforcing control, intimidating opposition and instilling fear among citizens. With access to unlimited power and riches, many developed secretive personal lives and bizarre habits. These dictators terrorized their people, and mesmerized the world, with their bizarre sayings, styles, and actions. Biography.com takes a look at some of the world's most erratic, and autocratic, leaders.
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