UPDATE: Libyan Dictator Muammar Gadhafi Killed by Rebels in Sirte
Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, who’s been in hiding since August when a NATO-backed rebel force seized his headquarters in Tripoli, was killed on Thursday after rebels stormed his hometown of Sirte, where the last remnants of troops loyal to him were hiding. He was 69 years old.
Gadhafi, who came to power in a bloodless military coup in 1969, was the longest-ruling Arab leader in history. During his reign, he abolished the Libyan constitution and instead imposed laws based on his own theories of political ideology.
And while many of Libya’s human development indicators improved significantly while he was in power, he was largely reviled — and sanctioned — by many nations for his repeated and flagrant crimes against humanity, which resulted in warrants for his arrest from Interpol and the International Criminal Court.
Gadhafi was known to support anti-Western militant organizations around the world. The UK government accused him of supplying weapons to the Irish Republican Army, and after Libyan agents bombed the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin in 1986, his support for anti-American government organizations intensified. He financed the Nation of Islam and Al-Rukn; members of the latter group were convicted in 1987 of “offering to commit bombings and assassinations on US soil for Libyan payment.”
In 1988, after a Pan Am flight was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board, Gadhafi refused to extradite two Libyan intelligence agents indicted for the crime. At the urging of South African President Nelson Mandela, he eventually turned the defendants over to the Scottish Court in the Netherlands, where they faced trial in 1999, and Gadhafi himself later paid $2.7 billion to the victims’ families — actions that caused the UN sanctions against him to be lifted.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Gadhafi admitted he had active weapons of mass destruction and agreed to dismantle the program, even allowing inspectors into the country to verify his actions. By 2006, the US had re-established diplomatic relations with Libya and removed it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, causing US oil companies to make drilling agreements in the oil-rich nation.
But despite his improved standing in the world, he remained unpopular with own people — eventually leading to his demise.
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” de facto Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a news conference. “Moammar Gadhafi has been killed.”