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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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Despite the atmosphere of severe repression, demonstrations broke out in Benghazi, and spread throughout the country.
Qaddafi used aggressive force to try to suppress the protests, and the violence quickly escalated. Police and foreign mercenaries were brought in to shoot at protesters, and helicopters were sent to bombard protesters from the air. As casualties mounted, Libyans grew more determined to see Qaddafi's ouster. As violence spread through the country,
Qaddafi made several rambling speeches on state television, claiming the demonstrators were traitors, foreigners, al Qaeda, and drug addicts. He urged his supporters to continue the fight, and small groups of heavily armed loyalists battled against the rebels.
By the end of February 2011, the opposition had gained control over much of the country, and the rebels formed a governing body called the National Transitional Council. The opposition surrounded Tripoli, where Qaddafi still had some support. Most of the international community expressed support for the NTC, and called for the ouster of Qaddafi. At the end of March, a NATO coalition began to provide support for the rebel forces in the form of airstrikes and a no-fly zone. NATO's military intervention over the next six months proved to be decisive. In April, a NATO attack killed one of Qaddafi's sons. When Tripoli fell to rebel forces in late August, it was seen as a major victory for the opposition, and a symbolic end for Qaddafi's rule.
In June 2011, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrest of Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and his brother-in-law, for crimes against humanity. In July, more than 30 countries recognized the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya. Qaddafi had lost control of Libya, but his whereabouts were still unknown.
On October 20, 2011, Libyan officials announced that Muammar al-Qaddafi had died near his hometown of Sirte, Libya. Early reports had conflicting accounts of his death, with some stating that he had been killed in a gun battle and others claiming that he had been targeted by a NATO aerial attack. Video circulated of Qaddafi's bloodied body being dragged around by fighters.
For months, Qaddafi and his family had been at large, believed to be hiding in the western part of the country, where they still had small pockets of support. As news of the former dictator's death spread, Libyans poured into the streets, celebrating the what many hailed as the culmination of their revolution.
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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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