Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi seems to be losing his 41-year grip on power. Protests start in the eastern city, Benghazi, on February 17, intensify and spread to the capital Tripoli. As reports emerged of a brutal crackdown, Libyan overseas ambassadors and army officers begin to publicly turn their backs on the regime.
Rebels soon began taking control of eastern cities like Tubruk, Beghazi and Brega. On March 2, pro-Gaddafi forces began a counter-attack in the east and in towns close to Tripoli, wiping out rebel gains. The UN, which imposed sanctions and an arms embargo at the end of February, refers Gaddafi and his closest allies to the International Criminal Court for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity. Despite growing international pressure, Gaddafi’s troops push eastwards. As they approach the rebel stronghold in Benghazi, the UN Security Council votes to take military action in the form of a no-fly zone, intended to neutralise the air strikes of Gaddafi’s army and protect civilians. Military strategists say this could allow the rebels to regroup and take the fight to Gaddafi themselves, without foreign intervention on the ground.
French fighter jets begin bombardments of Libyan military targets on Saturday, March 19.
Political system: “Jamahiriya” – The Republic of the People
“Guide of the Revolution”: Muammar Gaddafi – 1969 / …
Population: 5.6 million (2006 census)
Human Development Index1: 53rd
Unemployment: 30% (2004 estimate)
1 HDI is calculated according to factors such as schooling, life expectancy and gross national income and is used by the UN’s Development Programme for its Human development reports.