2011 Libyan civil war

2011 Libyan civil war
2011 Libyan civil war
Part of the Arab Spring
Clockwise from top-left: The National Transitional Council flag is flown by anti-Gaddafi fighters in Brega on 10 March 2011; protesters in Bayda; protesters and defectors clash with Libyan soldiers in Bayda on 17 February 2011; a French rescue helicopter lands on USS Mount Whitney, at the beginning of the military intervention; remains of two Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Libyan Army, destroyed by French warplanes near Benghazi; USS Barry launches one of its Tomahawk missiles during Operation Unified Protector.
Date 15 February – 23 October 2011 (8 months, 8 days)
Location Libya
Result Overthrow of Gaddafi government
Libya National Transitional Council[3]


UN member states enforcing UNSC Resolution 1973:

Spillover conflict:
 Tunisia (minor border clashes)

Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Commanders and leaders
Libya Mustafa Abdul Jalil
(Chairman of the NTC)[23]

Libya Abdul Hafiz Ghoga
(Vice-Chairman of the NTC)
Libya Mahmoud Jibril
(Interim Libyan Prime Minister)
Libya Jalal al-Digheily
Libya Omar El-Hariri[24]
Libya Suleiman Mahmoud[25]
Libya Abdul Fatah Younis 
(assassinated 28 July in Benghazi)
Libya Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Libya Mahdi al-Harati
Libya Abu Oweis
Libya Abdul Hassan
Libya Khalid Shahmah
Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Qatar Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah

NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen
(Secretary General)
NATO James G. Stavridis
NATO Charles Bouchard
(Operational Commander)[26]
NATO Ralph Jodice
(Air Commander)
NATO Rinaldo Veri
(Maritime Commander)
NATO Carter Ham

Canada Stephen Harper
(Prime Minister of Canada)
Canada Marc Lessard
Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen
(Prime Minister of Denmark to 3 Oct)
Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt
(Prime Minister of Denmark from 3 Oct)
Denmark Knud Bartels
France Nicolas Sarkozy
(President of France)
France Édouard Guillaud
Italy Silvio Berlusconi
(Prime Minister of Italy)
Italy Rinaldo Veri
Norway Jens Stoltenberg
(Prime Minister of Norway)
Norway Harald Sunde
Romania Traian Băsescu
(President of Romania)
Romania Ștefan Dănilă
United Kingdom David Cameron
(Prime Minister of the UK)
United Kingdom Sir Stuart Peach
(Chief of Joint Operations)
United States Barack Obama
(President of the United States)
United States Carter Ham
United States Sam Locklear
Jordan Abdullah II
Sweden Sverker Göranson
United Arab Emirates Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Libya Muammar Gaddafi 

Muammar Gaddafi's sons:
Libya Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
(Captured after war's end)
Libya Khamis Gaddafi [27]
Libya Mutassim Gaddafi 
Libya Saif al-Arab Gaddafi [28]
Libya Al-Saadi Gaddafi
Military leaders:
Libya Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabr 
(Minister of Defence)
Libya Abdullah Senussi
(Head of Military Intelligence)
Libya Massoud Abdelhafid
(Head of the secret police)
Libya Baghdadi Mahmudi (POW)
(Libyan Prime Minister)
Libya Mahdi al-Arabi (POW)
(Deputy chief of staff of the army and commander of special forces)
Libya Mohamed Abu Al-Quasim al-Zwai (POW)
(Secretary-General of the General People's Congress)
Libya Abuzed Omar Dorda (POW)
(Head of National Intelligence)
Libya Khouildi Hamidi (POW)
(Deputy head of the secret police)
Libya Abdul Ati al-Obeidi (POW)
(Foreign Minister)
Libya Ahmad Ramdan (POW)
(Minister of Information)
Libya Salih Rajab al-Mismari
(Minister of Public Security)
Libya Moussa Ibrahim
(Gaddafi Spokesman)
Libya Hasan al-Kabir al-Gaddafi
(Head of Revolutionary Guard Corps)
Libya Rafi al-Sharif
(Head of the Navy)
Libya Ali Sharif al-Rifi
(General and Head of the Air Force)
Libya Ali Kana
(General and commander of southern forces)
Libya Awad Hamza
(Infantry leader)
Libya Bashir Hawadi
(General and field commander)
Libya Mustafa al-Kharoubi
(General and military strategist)
Libya Nasr al-Mabrouk
(General and primary police commander)
Libya Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi 
(Army colonel and Gaddafi's cousin)
Libya Mansour Dhao (POW)
(Head of Gaddafi's personal guards)
Libya Muftah Anaqrat 
(Brigadier General)

17,000 defecting soldiers and volunteers[29]

International Forces: Numerous air and maritime forces (see here)

20,000[30]–40,000[31] soldiers and militia
Casualties and losses
5,667–7,059 opposition fighters and supporters killed, 2,886–3,005 missing (see here)

United Kingdom 1 airman killed in traffic accident in Italy[32]
Netherlands 3 Dutch Marines captured (later released)[33]

2,580–3,231 soldiers killed (see here),
7,000 captured*[34]
Estimated total casualties on both sides, including civilians:
25,000[35]–30,000 killed, 4,000 missing[36]
*Large number of loyalist or immigrant civilians, not military personnel, among those captured by rebels,[37] only an estimated minimum of 1,542+ confirmed as soldiers[38]

The 2011 Libyan civil war[39] (also referred to as the Libyan revolution[40]) was an armed conflict in the North African state of Libya, fought between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and those seeking to oust his government.[41][42] The war was preceded by protests in Benghazi beginning on 15 February 2011, which led to clashes with security forces that fired on the crowd.[43] The protests escalated into a rebellion that spread across the country,[44] with the forces opposing Gaddafi establishing an interim governing body, the National Transitional Council. On 16 September 2011, the National Transitional Council was recognised by the United Nations as the legal representative of Libya, replacing the Gaddafi government.

The United Nations Security Council passed an initial resolution on 26 February, freezing the assets of Gaddafi and his inner circle and restricting their travel, and referred the matter to the International Criminal Court for investigation.[45] In early March, Gaddafi's forces rallied, pushed eastwards and re-took several coastal cities before attacking Benghazi. A further U.N. resolution authorised member states to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.[46] The Gaddafi government then announced a ceasefire, but failed to uphold it.[47]

In August, rebel forces engaged in a coastal offensive and took most of their lost territory, and captured the capital city of Tripoli,[48] while Gaddafi evaded capture and loyalists engaged in a rearguard campaign.[49] Muammar Gaddafi remained at large until 20 October 2011, when he was captured and killed attempting to escape from Sirte.[50] The National Transitional Council declared the liberation of Libya and the official end of the war on 23 October 2011.[51]




Muammar Gaddafi became the de-facto ruler of Libya after he led a military coup that overthrew King Idris I in 1969.[52] He abolished the Libyan Constitution of 1951, and adopted laws based on his own ideology outlined in his manifesto The Green Book. He officially stepped down from power in 1977, and subsequently claimed to be merely a "symbolic figurehead" until 2011, with the Libyan government up until then also denying that he held any power.[53][54]

Under Gaddafi, Libya was theoretically a decentralized, direct democracy[55] state run according to the philosophy of Gaddafi's The Green Book, with Gaddafi retaining a ceremonial position. Libya was officially run by a system of people's committees which served as local governments for the country's subdivisions, an indirectly-elected General People's Congress as the legislature, and the General People's Committee, led by a Secretary-General, as the executive branch. According to Freedom House, however, these structures were often manipulated to ensure the dominance of Gaddafi, who reportedly continued to dominate all aspects of government.[56]

WikiLeaks' disclosure of confidential US diplomatic cables revealed US diplomats there speaking of Gaddafi's "mastery of tactical manoeuvring".[57] While placing relatives and loyal members of his tribe in central military and government positions, he skillfully marginalized supporters and rivals, thus maintaining a delicate balance of powers, stability and economic developments. This extended even to his own sons, as he repeatedly changed affections to avoid the rise of a clear successor and rival.[57]

Both Gaddafi and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, however, officially denied that he held any power, but claimed he was merely a symbolic figurehead.[53][54] While he was popularly seen as a demagogue in the West, Gaddafi always portrayed himself as a statesman-philosopher.[58]

According to several Western media sources, Gaddafi feared a military coup against his government and deliberately kept Libya's military relatively weak. The Libyan Army consisted of about 50,000 personnel. Its most powerful units were four crack brigades of highly equipped and trained soldiers, composed of members of Gaddafi's tribe or members of other tribes loyal to him. One, the Khamis Brigade, was led by his son Khamis. Local militias and Revolutionary Committees across the country were also kept well-armed. By contrast, regular military units were poorly armed and trained, and were armed with largely outdated military equipment.[59][60][61] According to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, however, the reason for the country's de-militarization was a reaction to the Iraq War, so that Libya wouldn't be accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and face the same fate. He also accused NATO of betraying their trust and taking advantage of this weakness to launch an air attack, recommending that other nations build up their military defences in order to avoid facing the same fate as Libya.[62]

Development and corruption

Much of the state's income came from its oil production, which soared in the 1970s. In the 1980s, a large portion of it was spent on arms purchases, and on sponsoring militant groups and independence movements around the world.[63][64]

Petroleum revenues contributed up to 58% of Libya's GDP.[65] Governments with resource curse revenue have a lower need for taxes from other industries and consequently feel less pressure to develop their middle class. To calm opposition, they can use the income from natural resources to offer services to the population, or to specific government supporters.[66] Libya's oil wealth being spread over a relatively small population gave it a higher GDP per capita than in neighbouring states.[67][68][69] Libya's GDP per capita (PPP), human development index, and literacy rate were better than in Egypt and Tunisia, whose Arab Spring revolutions preceded the outbreak of protests in Libya.[70] Libya's corruption perception index in 2010 was 2.2, ranking 146th out of 178 countries, worse than that of Egypt (ranked 98th) and Tunisia (ranked 59th).[71] One paper speculated that such a situation created a broader contrast between good education, high demand for democracy, and the government's practices (perceived corruption, political system, supply of democracy).[70]

An estimated 20.74% of Libyan citizens were unemployed, and about one-third lived below the national poverty line. More than 16% of families had none of its members earning a stable income, while 43.3% had just one. Despite one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, there was a consistent labor shortage with over a million migrant workers present on the market.[72] These migrant workers formed the bulk of the refugees leaving Libya after the beginning of hostilities. Despite this, Libya's Human Development Index in 2010 was the highest in Africa and greater than that of Saudi Arabia. Libya had welfare systems allowing access to free education, free healthcare, and financial assistance for housing, while the Great Manmade River was built to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country.[73]

Some of the worst economic conditions were in the eastern parts of the state, once a breadbasket of the ancient world, where Gaddafi extracted oil.[74][75] Despite improvements in housing and the Great Manmade River allowing access to free fresh water,[73] not much infrastructure beyond this was developed in the region for many years, with the only sewage facility in Benghazi being over 40 years old, and untreated sewage has resulted in environmental problems.[76] Despite Gaddafi's government offering free healthcare to all citizens,[73] the medical system was seen as poor and had become a symbol of the uneven distribution of resources in the country. The apparent lack of decent medical care often led Libyans to seek medical care in neighboring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.[77]

Several foreign governments and analysts have claimed that a large share of the business enterprise was controlled by Gaddafi, his family, and the government.[78] A leaked US diplomatic cable claimed that the Libyan economy was "a kleptocracy in which the government – either the Gaddafi family itself or its close political allies – has a direct stake in anything worth buying, selling or owning".[79] According to US officials, Gaddafi amassed a vast personal fortune during his 42-year leadership.[80] The New York Times pointed to Gaddafi's relatives adopting lavish lifestyles, including luxurious homes, Hollywood film investments, and private parties with American pop stars.[79][81]

Gaddafi claimed he was planning to combat corruption in the state by proposing reforms where oil profits are handed out directly to the country's five million people[82] rather than to government bodies, stating that "as long as money is administered by a government body, there would be theft and corruption."[83] Gaddafi urged a sweeping reform of the government bureaucracy, suggesting that most of the cabinet system should be dismantled to "free Libyans from red tape" and "protect the state's budget from corruption." According to Western diplomats, this move appeared to be aimed at putting pressure on the government to speed up reforms.[82] In March 2008, Gaddafi proposed plans to dissolve the country's existing administrative structure and disburse oil revenue directly to the people. The plan included abolishing all ministries except those of defence, internal security, and foreign affairs, and departments implementing strategic projects.[84] He claimed that the ministries were failing to manage the country’s oil revenues,[85] and that his "dream during all these years was to give power and wealth directly to the people."[86]

A national vote on Gaddafi's plan to disband the government and give oil money directly to the people was held in 2009, where Libya's people's congresses, collectively the country's highest authority, voted to delay implementation. The General People's Congress announced that, out of 468 Basic People's Congresses, 64 chose immediate implementation while 251 endorsed implementation "but asked for (it) to be delayed until appropriate measures were put in place." This plan led to dissent from top government officials, who claimed it would "wreak havoc" in the economy by "fanning inflation and spurring capital flight." Gaddafi acknowledged that the scheme, which promised up to 30,000 Libyan dinars ($23,000) annually to about a million of Libya's poorest, may "cause chaos before it brought about prosperity," but claimed "do not be afraid to experiment with a new form of government" and that "this plan is to offer a better future for Libya's children."[86][87]

The civil war was viewed as part of the Arab Spring, which had already resulted in the ousting of long-term presidents of adjacent Tunisia and Egypt, with the initial protests all using similar slogans.[88] Social media played an important role in organizing the opposition.[89]

Human rights in Libya

In 2009 and 2011, the Freedom of the Press Index rated Libya the most-censored state in the Middle East and North Africa.[90][91] In contrast, a January 2011 report of the United Nations Human Rights Council, on which the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya sat prior to the uprising, released a month before protests began, praised certain aspects of the country's human rights record, including its treatment of women and improvements in other areas.[92]

Dissent was illegal under Law 75 of 1973, and in 1974, Gaddafi asserted that anyone guilty of founding a political party would be executed.[93] With the establishment of the Jamahiriya ("state of the masses") system in 1977, he established the Revolutionary Committees as conduits for raising political consciousness, with the aim of direct political participation by all Libyans rather than a traditional party-based representative system.[94] In 1979, some of the Revolutionary Committees had eventually evolved into self-appointed, sometimes zealous, enforcers of revolutionary orthodoxy.[94] During the early 1980s, the Revolutionary Committees had considerable power and became a growing source of tension within the Jamihiriya,[95] to the extent that Gaddafi sometimes criticized their effectiveness and excessive repression,[94][95] until the power of the Revolutionary Committees were eventually restricted in the late 1980s.[95]

The Revolutionary Committees occassionally kept tight control over internal dissent; reportedly, ten to twenty percent of Libyans worked as informants for these committees, with surveillance taking place in the government, in factories, and in the education sector.[93] The government sometimes executed dissidents through public hangings and mutilations and re-broadcast them on public television channels.[93][96] Up to the mid-1980s, Libya's intelligence service conducted assassinations of Libyan dissidents around the world.[93][97]

Foreign languages such as English and French were banned from school syllabus and talking with foreigners about politics reportedly carried a three-year prison term.[98] The Green Book, which Gaddafi authored in the 1970s, was for years the principal text of political education. According to a Libyan lecturer, teachers who called it "rubbish" could face execution.[99]

In 1988, Gaddafi criticized the "excesses" he blamed on the Revolutionary Councils, stating that "they deviated, harmed, tortured" and that "the true revolutionary does not practise repression."[100] That same year, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya issued the Great Green Document on Human Rights, in which Article 5 established laws that allowed greater freedom of expression. Article 8 of The Code on the Promotion of Freedom stated that "each citizen has the right to express his opinions and ideas openly in People’s Congresses and in all mass media."[92] A number of restrictions were also allegedly placed on the power of the Revolutionary Committees,[by whom?] leading to a resurgence in the Libyan state's popularity by the early 1990s.[95] In 2004, however, Libya posted a $1 million bounty for journalist and governmental critic Ashur Shamis, under the allegation that he was linked to Al-Qaeda and terror suspect Abu Qatada.[101]

In December 2009, Gaddafi reportedly told government officials that Libya would soon experience a "new political period" and would have elections for important positions such as minister-level roles and the National Security Advisor position (a Prime Minister equivalent). He also promised that international monitors would be included to ensure fair elections. His speech was said to have caused quite a stir. These elections were planned to coincide with the Jamahiriya's usual periodic elections for the Popular Committees, Basic People's Committees, Basic People's Congresses, and General People's Congresses, in 2010.[102]

Anti-Gaddafi movement, beginnings of the National Transitional Council

Beginnings of protests

The flag of the former Kingdom of Libya. It, or modified versions, has been used by many protesters as an opposition flag.[103][104]

Between 13 and 16 January, upset at delays in the building of housing units and over political corruption, protesters in Bayda, Derna, Benghazi, Bani Walid and other cities broke into, and occupied, housing that the government had been building. Protesters also clashed with police in Bayda and attacked government offices.[105][106] By 27 January, the government had responded to the housing unrest with a €20 billion investment fund to provide housing and development.[107][108][109]

In late January, Jamal al-Hajji, a writer, political commentator and accountant, "call[ed] on the Internet for demonstrations to be held in support of greater freedoms in Libya" inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. He was arrested on 1 February by plain-clothes police officers, and charged on 3 February with injuring someone with his car. Amnesty International claimed that because al-Hajji had previously been imprisoned for his non-violent political opinions, the real reason for the present arrest appeared to be his call for demonstrations.[110] In early February, Gaddafi, on behalf of the Jamahiriya, met with political activists, journalists and media figures and warned them that they would be held responsible if they disturbed the peace or created chaos in Libya.[111]

Uprising and civil war

The first demonstrations in Bayda. A police car burns on 16 February, at the crossroads of At-Talhi, now known as the Crossroads of the Spark.
A girl in Benghazi with a placard saying that the Libyan tribes are united, on 23 February.

The protests, unrest and confrontations began in earnest on 15 February 2011. On the evening of 15 February, between 500 and 600 demonstrators protested in front of Benghazi's police headquarters after the arrest of human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil. The protest was broken up violently by police, resulting in clashes in which 38 people were injured, among them ten security personnel.[112][113] The novelist Idris Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after giving an interview with Al Jazeera about the police reaction to protests.[112]

In Bayda and Zintan, hundreds of protesters in each town called for an end to the Gaddafi government and set fire to police and security buildings.[112] In Zintan, the protesters set up tents in the town centre.[112] The armed protests continued the following day in Benghazi, Derna and Bayda. Libyan security forces allegedly responded with lethal force. Hundreds gathered at Maydan al-Shajara in Benghazi, and authorities tried to disperse protesters with water cannons.[114]

The Libyan National Transitional Council flag is flown from a communications tower in Bayda in July.

A "Day of Rage" in Libya and by Libyans in exile was planned for 17 February.[111][115][116] The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition asked that all groups opposed to the Gaddafi government protest on 17 February in memory of demonstrations in Benghazi five years earlier.[111] The plans to protest were inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution.[111] Protests took place in Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Derna, Zintan, and Bayda. Libyan security forces fired live ammunition into the armed protests. Protesters torched a number of government buildings, including a police station.[117][118] In Tripoli, television and public radio stations had been sacked, and protesters set fire to security buildings, Revolutionary Committee offices, the interior ministry building, and the People's Hall.[119][120] According to a report from the International Crisis Group, "much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the government's security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge".[119]

On 18 February, police and army personnel later withdrew from Benghazi after being overwhelmed by protesters. Some army personnel also joined the protesters; they then seized the local radio station. In Bayda, unconfirmed reports indicated that the local police force and riot-control units had joined the protesters.[121] On 19 February, witnesses in Libya reported helicopters firing into crowds of anti-government protesters.[122] The army withdrew from the city of Bayda.

Cultural revolt

‘Al-Soo'al’ (The Question)[123]

“Muammar: You have never served the people
Muammar: You'd better give up
Confess. You cannot escape
Our revenge will catch you
As a train roars through a wall
We will drown you.”

Rap, hip hop and traditional music, alongside other genres, have played a role in encouraging the dissidents to Gaddafi's government. Music has been controlled and dissenting cultural figures have been arrested or tortured in Arab Spring countries, including Libya.[123] The music has provided an important platform by means of communication among the demonstrators. The music has helped create moral support and encouraged a spirit of resistance and revolt against the governments.[123]

An anonymous hip hop artist called Ibn Thabit has given a voice to "disenfranchised Libyans looking for a non-violent way to express their political will".[124][125] On his website, Ibn Thabit claims that "has been attacking Gaddafi with his music since 2008" when he posted his first song on the internet, titled "Moammar – the coward".[124][126] Lyrics of a song 'Al-Soo'al' released by Ibn Thabit on YouTube on 27 January 2011, weeks before the riots began in Libya are indicative of the rebel sentiment.[123]

Some groups, such as a rock band from Benghazi called the "Guys Underground", used metaphors to cloak the censure of the authorities. The group released a song just before the uprising entitled "Like My Father Always Says" to ridicule an autocratic fictional male head of a family which was a veiled reference to Colonel Gaddafi.[123]


Libyan Boy Scouts helping in the social services in Benghazi.

Many opposition participants have called for a return to the 1952 constitution and a transition to multi-party democracy. Military units who have joined the rebellion and many volunteers have formed an army to defend against Jamahiriya attacks and to work to bring Tripoli under the influence of Jalil.[127] In Tobruk, volunteers turned a former headquarters of the government into a centre for helping protesters. Volunteers reportedly guarded the port, local banks and oil terminals to keep the oil flowing. Teachers and engineers set up a committee to collect weapons.[75] Likewise supply lines were run by volunteers. For example, in Misrata people organised a pizza service which delivered up to 8,000 pizzas a day to fighters.[128]

The National Transitional Council (Arabic: المجلس الوطني الانتقالي‎) was established on 27 February in an effort to consolidate efforts for change in the rule of Libya.[129] The main objectives of the group did not include forming an interim government, but instead to co-ordinate resistance efforts between the different towns held in rebel control, and to give a political "face" to the opposition to present to the world.[130] The Benghazi-based opposition government had called for a no-fly zone and airstrikes against the Jamahiriya.[131] The council refers to the Libyan state as the Libyan Republic and it now has a website.[132] Former Jamahiriya Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil said in February that the new government would prepare for elections and they could be held in three months.[133] On 29 March, the political and international affairs committee of the Council presented its eight-point plan for Libya in The Guardian newspaper, stating they would hold free and fair elections and draft a national constitution.[41][42]

An independent newspaper called Libya appeared in Benghazi, as well as rebel-controlled radio stations.[134] Some of the rebels oppose tribalism and wear vests bearing slogans such as "No to tribalism, no to factionalism".[75] Libyans have said that they have found abandoned torture chambers and devices that have been used in the past.[135]

Composition of rebel forces

The rebels are composed primarily of civilians, such as teachers, students, lawyers, and oil workers, and a contingent of professional soldiers that defected from the Libyan Army and joined the rebels.[136] The Islamist group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is considered part of the rebel movement,[137] as is the Obaida Ibn Jarrah Brigade which has been held responsible for the assassination of top rebel commander Gen Abdel Fattah Younes.[138]

Gaddafi's administration had repeatedly asserted that the rebels included al-Qaeda fighters.[139] NATO's Supreme Allied Commander James G. Stavridis stated that intelligence reports suggested "flickers" of al-Qaeda activity were present among the rebels, but also added that there is not sufficient information to confirm there is any significant al-Qaeda or terrorist presence.[140][141] Denials of al-Qaeda membership were issued by the rebels.[142] But two documents support Gaddafi's claims on this issue. One being a secret cable to the State Department from the US embassy in Tripoli in 2008, part of the WikiLeaks trove, entitled "Extremism in Eastern Libya". The other being an analysis by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point of a set of documents called the Sinjar Records, purporting to show a statistical study of the al-Qaeda personnel records. The West Point analyisis of these documents concluded that Libya provided "far more" foreign fighters in per capita terms than any other country. [143] A disclosed file from 2005 on WikiLeaks found that rebel leader Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamuda Bin Qumu was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee alleged to be a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, to have joined the Taliban in 1998, and that he was a “probable member of Al Qaida and a member of the African Extremist Network.”[144]

The composition of rebel forces also drew former exiles or their children, with Western news outlets frequently recounting the return of exiles from abroad to help, and often die, in the rebels' fight against the Gaddafi government.[citation needed]

State response

In the days leading up to the conflict, Gaddafi called for a rally against the government that was to be held on 17 February. The International Crisis Group believes this to have been a political manoeuvre to divert attention away from himself and the Jamahiriya political system towards government officials currently in power.[119]

Later in February, Gaddafi claimed that the rebels were influenced by Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, and hallucinogenic drugs put in drinks and pills. He specifically referred to substances in milk, coffee, and Nescafé, and claimed that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were distributing these hallucinogenic drugs. He also blamed alcohol.[145][146][147] Gaddafi later also claimed that the revolt against his rule was the result of a colonialist plot by foreign states, particularly blaming France, the US and the UK, to control oil and enslave the Libyan people. He referred to the rebels as "cockroaches" and "rats", and vowed not to step down and to cleanse Libya house by house until the insurrection was crushed.[148][149][150][151][152]

Gaddafi declared that people who don't "love" him "do not deserve to live".[149][151] He called himself a "warrior", and vowed to fight on and die a "martyr", and urged his supporters to leave their homes and attack rebels "in their lairs". Gaddafi claimed that he had not yet ordered the use of force, and threatened that "everything will burn" when he did. Responding to demands that he step down, he claimed that he could not step down, as he held a purely symbolic position like Queen Elizabeth, and that the people were in power.[153]

The Swedish peace research institute SIPRI reported flights between Tripoli and a dedicated military base in Belarus which only handles stockpiled weaponry and military equipment.[154]


The Libyan government were reported to have employed snipers, artillery, helicopter gunships, warplanes, anti-aircraft weaponry, and warships against demonstrations and funeral processions.[155] It was also reported that security forces and foreign mercenaries repeatedly used firearms, including assault rifles and machine guns, as well as knives against protesters. Amnesty International initially reported that writers, intellectuals and other prominent opposition sympathizers disappeared during the early days of the conflict in Gaddafi-controlled cities, and that they may have been subjected to torture or execution.[156]

Rebel fighter in hospital in Tripoli

Amnesty International also reported that security forces targeted paramedics helping injured protesters.[157] In multiple incidents, Gaddafi's forces were documented using ambulances in their attacks.[158][159] Injured demonstrators were sometimes denied access to hospitals and ambulance transport. The government also banned giving blood transfusions to people who had taken part in the demonstrations.[160] Security forces, including members of Gaddafi's Revolutionary Committees, stormed hospitals and removed the dead. Injured protesters were either summarily executed or had their oxygen masks, IV drips, and wires connected to the monitors removed. The dead and injured were piled into vehicles and taken away, possibly for cremation.[161][162] Doctors were prevented from documenting the numbers of dead and wounded, but an orderly in a Tripoli hospital morgue estimated to the BBC that 600–700 protesters were killed in Green Square in Tripoli on 20 February. The orderly claimed that ambulances brought in three or four corpses at a time, and that after the ice lockers were filled to capacity, bodies were placed on stretchers or the floor, and that "it was in the same at the other hospitals".[161]

On 19 February, several days after the conflict began, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi announced the creation of a commission of inquiry into the violence, chaired by a Libyan judge, as reported on state television. He stated that the commission was intended to be "for members of Libyan and foreign organizations of human rights" and that it will "investigate the circumstances and events that have caused many victims."[120] Later in the month, he went on state television to deny allegations that the government had launched airstrikes against Libyan cities and stated that the number of protesters killed had been exaggerated.[145]

Later in February, it was reported that the Gaddafi government had suppressed protests in Tripoli by distributing automobiles, money and weapons for hired followers to drive around Tripoli and attack people showing signs of dissent.[163][164] In Tripoli, "death squads" of mercenaries and Revolutionary Committees members reportedly patrolled the streets and shot people who tried to take the dead off the streets or gather in groups.[165]

In March 2011, the International Federation for Human Rights concluded that Gaddafi was implementing a scorched earth strategy. The organization stated that "It is reasonable to fear that he has, in fact, decided to largely eliminate, wherever he still can, Libyan citizens who stood up against his regime and furthermore, to systematically and indiscriminately repress civilians. These acts can be characterized as crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."[166]

In May 2011, International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo estimated that 500–700 people were killed by security forces in February 2011, before the rebels took up arms. According to Moreno-Ocampo, "shooting at protesters was systematic".[167]

During the siege of Misrata in May 2011, Amnesty International reported "horrifying" tactics such as "indiscriminate attacks that have led to massive civilian casualties, including use of heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs in civilian areas and sniper fire against residents."[168] Gaddafi's military commanders also reportedly executed soldiers who refused to fire on protesters.[169] The International Federation for Human Rights reported a case where 130 soldiers were executed.[170] Some of the soldiers executed by their commanders were reportedly burned alive.[171]

In June 2011, a more detailed investigation carried out by Amnesty International found that many of the allegations against Gaddafi and the Libyan state turned out to either be false or lack any credible evidence, noting that rebels at times appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence. According to the Amnesty investigation, the number of casualties was heavily exaggerated, some of the protesters may have been armed, "there is no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen," and there is no evidence that aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns were used against crowds. It also doubted claims that the protest movement was "entirely peaceful" and "presented no security challenge."[43]

In July 2011, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had an interview with Russia Today in which he denied the ICC's allegations that he or his father Muammar Gaddafi ordered the killing of civilian protesters. He claimed that he was not a member of the government or the military and therefore had no authority to give such orders. He also claimed his father made recorded calls to General Abdul Fatah Younis, who later defected to the rebel forces, in order to request not to use force against protesters, to which he said Fatah Younis responded that protesters were attacking a military site and soldiers were acting in self-defense.[172][173]

Prison sites and torture

Gaddafi reportedly imprisoned thousands or tens of thousands residents in Tripoli, with Red Cross denied access to these hidden prisons. One of the most notorious is a prison which was setup in a tobacco factory in Tripoli where inmates are reported to have been fed just half a loaf of bread and a bottle of water a day.[174]

In late April, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice alleged that soldiers loyal to Gaddafi were given Viagra and encouraged to commit rapes in rebel-held or disputed areas. The allegations surfaced in an Al Jazeera report the previous month from Libya-based doctors, who claimed to have found Viagra in the pockets of government soldiers.[175] Human rights groups and aid workers had previously documented rapes by loyalist fighters during the war. The British aid agency "Save the children" said it got reports that children were raped by unknown perpetrators, although the charity warns that these reports could not be confirmed.[176][177]

In Misrata, a rebel spokesman claimed that government soldiers had committed a string of sexual assaults in Benghazi Street before being pushed out by rebels. A doctor claimed that two young sisters were raped by five Black African mercenaries after their brothers joined the rebels. According to aid workers, four young girls were abducted and held for four days, and were possibly sexually assaulted.[178] In a questionnaire 259 refugee women reported that they had been raped by Gaddafi's soldiers, however the accounts of these women could not be independently verified as the psychologist who conducted the questionnaire claimed that "she had lost contact with them".[43] The validity of the rape allegations is questioned by Amnesty International, which has not found evidence to back up the claims and notes that there are indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.[43]


Soon after Gaddafi's government started to use force against demonstrators, it became apparent that some Libyan military units refused to shoot protesters, and Gaddafi had hired foreign mercenaries to do the job. Gaddafi's ambassador to India Ali al-Essawi confirmed that the defections of military units had indeed led to such a decision.[179] Video footage of this started to leak out of the country.[179] Gaddafi's former Chief of Protocol Nouri Al Misrahi stated in an interview with the Al Jazeera that Nigerien, Malian, Chadian and Kenyan mercenaries are among foreign soldiers helping fight the uprising on behalf of Gaddafi.[180] Defecting Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi called on African nations to stop sending mercenaries to defend the Gaddafi government.[179]

In Mali, members of the Tuareg tribe confirmed that a large number of men, about 5,000, from the tribe went to Libya in late February.[181][182][183][184] Locals in Mali said they were promised €7,500 ($10,000) upfront payment and compensation up to €750 ($1,000) per day.[17][18] Gaddafi has used Malian Tuaregs in his political projects before, sending them to fight in places like Chad, Sudan and Lebanon and recently they have fought against Niger government, a war which Gaddafi has reportedly sponsored. Malian government officials told BBC that it's hard to stop the flow of fighters from Mali to Libya.[17] A recruitment center for Malian soldiers leaving to Libya was found in a Bamako hotel.[20]

Reports from Ghana state that the men who went to Libya were offered as much as €1950 ($2,500) per day.[179] Advertisements seeking mercenaries were seen in Nigeria[179] with at least one female Nigerian pro-Gaddafi sniper being caught in late August outside of Tripoli.[185] One group of mercenaries from Niger, who had been allegedly recruited from the streets with promises of money, included a soldier of just 13 years of age.[186] The Daily Telegraph studied the case of a sixteen-year-old captured Chadian child soldier in Bayda. The boy, who had previously been a shepherd in Chad, told that a Libyan man had offered him a job and a free flight to Tripoli, but in the end he had been airlifted to shoot opposition members in Eastern Libya.[187]

Reports by EU experts stated that Gaddafi's government hired between 300 and 500 European soldiers, including some from EU countries, at high wages. According to Michel Koutouzis, who does research on security issues for the EU institutions, the UN and the French government, "In Libyan society, there is a taboo against killing people from your own tribal group. This is one reason why Gaddafi needs foreign fighters,"[188] The Serbian newspaper Alo! stated that Serbs were hired to help Gaddafi in the early days of the conflict.[189] Rumors of Serbian pilots participating on the side of Gaddafi appeared early in the conflict.[190][191][192] Time magazine interviewed mercenaries from ex-Yugoslavia who fled Gaddafi's forces in August.[193]

A witness claimed that mercenaries were more willing to kill demonstrators than Libyan forces were, and earned a reputation as among the most brutal forces employed by the government. A doctor in Benghazi said of the mercenaries that "they know one thing: to kill whose in front of them. Nothing else. They're killing people in cold blood".[194]

On 7 April, Reuters reported that soldiers loyal to Gaddafi were sent into refugee camps to intimidate and bribe black African migrant workers into fighting for the Libyan state during the war. Some of these "mercenaries" were compelled to fight against their wishes, according to a source inside one of the refugee camps.[195]

In June 2011, Amnesty International said it found no evidence of foreign mercenaries being used, saying the black Africans claimed to be "mercenaries" were in fact "sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya," and described the use of mercenaries as a "myth" that "inflamed public opinion" and led to lynchings and executions of black Africans by rebel forces.[43]

In October 2011 it was reported that the South African government was investigating the possibility that South African mercenaries were hired by Gaddafi to help him in his failed attempt to escape the besieged city of Sirte.[196] It is thought that two South African mercenaries died in that operation from a NATO air strike on Gaddafi's convoy. One of the alleged mercenaries speaking from a hospital in North Africa stated that that around 19 South Africans had been contracted by different companies for the operation.[197]

Censorship of events

A subsidiary of Bull, developed a software called Eagle that enabled to monitor internet traffic and which was implemented in Libya in 2008 and with better performance in 2010.[198] Gaddafi shut down all Internet communications in Libya, and arrested Libyans who had given phone interviews to the media.[199][200] International journalists were banned by the Libyan authorities from reporting from Libya except by invitation of the Gaddafi government.[201][202][203] On 21 February, The New York Times reported that Gaddafi had tried to impose a blackout on information from Libya.[204] Several residents reported that cellphone service was down, and even landline phone service was sporadic.[204] However, every day new footage made with cell phone cameras finds its way to YouTube and the international media. Journalists and human rights researchers make daily phone calls to hundreds of civilians in government held territory.

International journalists who have attempted to cover the events have been attacked by Gaddafi's forces. A BBC News crew was beaten and then lined up against a wall by Gaddafi's soldiers, who then shot next to a journalist's ear and laughed at them.[205] A journalist working for The Guardian and another Brazilian journalist have been detained. An Al-Jazeera journalist Ali Hassan al-Jaber was murdered, and was apparently deliberately targeted.[206] Gaddafi's soldiers held four New York Times journalists – Lynsey Addario, Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks – in captivity for a week.[207][208] Libyan citizen journalist Mohammed Nabbous was shot in the head by Gaddafi's soldiers soon after exposing the Gaddafi government's false reports related to the cease-fire declaration.[209]

Colors of the revolution were banned. Some Tripoli residents painted their cats with the colors of the revolution, but Gaddafi's men shot them.[210]

International propaganda

After the uprising began, Libyan students studying in the United States received phone calls from the Libyan embassy, instructing them to participate in pro-Gaddafi rallies. They were threatened with losing their government-funded scholarships if they refused. Gaddafi's ambassador denied the reports.[211] A campaign in Serbia has organized people to spread pro-Gaddafi messages on the Internet.[212]

Gaddafi's men organized tours for foreign journalists in Tripoli. The Economist correspondent in Tripoli noted "The picture presented by the regime often falls apart, fast. Coffins at funerals have sometimes turned out to be empty. Bombing sites are recycled. An injured seven-year-old in a hospital was the victim of a car crash, according to a note passed on surreptitiously by a nurse. Journalists who point out such blatant massaging of facts are harangued in the hotel corridors."[213]

The course of the war.
  Held by anti-Gaddafis by 1 March. (Checkered: Lost before UN intervention)
  Contested areas between March and August.
  Rebel western coastal offensive in August.
  Rebel gains by 1 October.
  Last loyalist pockets.
Big battle symbol.svg Major campaigns. Small battle symbol.svg battles.

The Guardian described journalism in Gaddafi's Libya as "North Korea with palm trees". Journalist were not allowed to go anywhere, or talk to anyone, without authorization from Gaddafi's officials who always followed them. Journalists who didn't report events the way Gaddafi's officials instructed faced problems and sudden deportations.[214]

In June 2011, Amnesty International criticized "Western media coverage" which "has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime's security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no security challenge."[43]

Human shields

Gaddafi forces reportedly surrounded themselves with civilians to protect themselves and key military sites like the Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli from air strikes.[215] Amnesty International has reported that Gaddafi places his tanks next to civilian facilities to use them as shields, which is a war crime under international law.[168]

Course of the war

First weeks

By 23 February, Gaddafi was suffering from the resignations and defections of close allies,[216] from the loss of Benghazi,[217] the fall of Tobruk, Misrata, Bayda, Zawiya, Zuwara, Sabratha, Sorman,[218][216] and mounting international isolation and pressure.[216][219][220] By the end of February, Gaddafi's government had lost control of a significant part of Libya, including the major cities of Misrata and Benghazi, and the important harbors at Ra's Lanuf and Brega.[221][222] But in March, Gaddafi's forces pushed the rebels back and eventually reached Benghazi[223][224] and Misrata.

Foreign military intervention

The Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown was on 2 March 2011 deployed to the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya, but did not take immediate action once arrived.[225] Seventeen days later, a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the 2011 Libyan civil war. That same day, military operations began, with US and British forces firing cruise missiles,[226] the French Air Force and British Royal Air Force[227] undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by the Royal Navy.[228][229][230]

Part of a group of six Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces, destroyed by French military airplanes at the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi in Opération Harmattan on 19 March 2011

Since the beginning of the intervention, the initial coalition of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, UK and US[231][232][233][234][235] has expanded to seventeen states, with newer states mostly enforcing the no-fly zone and naval blockade or providing military logistical assistance. The effort was initially largely led by France and the United Kingdom, with command shared with the United States. NATO took control of the arms embargo on 23 March, named Operation Unified Protector. An attempt to unify the military command of the air campaign (whilst keeping political and strategic control with a small group), first failed over objections by the French, German, and Turkish governments.[236][237] On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remains with coalition forces.[238] The handover occurred on 31 March 2011 at 0600 GMT.

In June 2011, Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam announced that they were willing to hold elections and that Gaddafi would step aside if he lost. Saif al-Islam stated that the elections could be held within three months and transparency would be guaranteed through international observers. NATO and the rebels rejected the offer, and NATO soon resumed their bombardment of Tripoli.[239]

In July 2011, Saif al-Islam condemned NATO for bombing Libyan civilians, including his family members and their children, under the false pretence that their homes were military bases. He also stated that NATO offered to drop the ICC charges against him and his father if they accept a secret deal, an offer they rejected. He thus criticized the ICC as "a fake court" that is controlled by the NATO nations.[172][240]

20 August rebel offensive

Funds spent by Foreign Powers on War in Libya.
Country Funds Spent By
United States $664 million USD May 2011[241][242]
Canada $26 million USD June 2011[243]
United Kingdom $400 million USD June 2011[244]
France $300 million USD August 2011[245]
Turkey $300 million USD July 2011[246]
United States $896 million USD July 31, 2011[247]
France $450 million USD September 2011[248]
United Kingdom $1500 million USD September 2011[249]
Spain $50 million USD Sept. 2011[250]
Sweden $50 million USD Oct. 2011[251]

Heads of the rebellion reported on 21 August that Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, was under arrest and that they had encircled the leader's compound, suggesting that the war had reached its endgame with an imminent rebel victory. By 22 August, rebel fighters had gained entrance into Tripoli and occupied Green Square, which was promptly renamed Martyrs' Square in memory of those who had died fighting in the civil war.[252] Early on 23 August, Saif al-Islam appeared at the Gaddafi-controlled Rixos Hotel in central Tripoli and boasted his father was still in control.[253] Later the same day, rebels blasted open the Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli through its north gates and stormed inside. Despite previous reports suggesting that Muammar Gaddafi may be inside, no members of the Gaddafi family were found.[254]

A rebel checkpoint in Tripoli on 26 August 2011

Early the following day, 24 August, Gaddafi broadcast an address from a Tripoli local radio station in which he said the withdrawal from Bab al-Azizia had been a "tactical" move. The New York Times reported rebel leaders as saying they believed the only areas still under Gaddafi's control, other than the immediate neighbourhood of Bab al-Azizia, were al-Hadhba and Abu Salim, the latter including the Rixos Hotel where a group of foreign journalists had been trapped for days. However, the report noted the rebels lacked a unified command and that Gaddafi loyalists and snipers remained at large in many areas of Tripoli. Local hospitals and clinics, even in areas considered under rebel control, were reporting hundreds of cases of gunshot wounds and the death toll was impossible to estimate.[255] By late afternoon the journalists trapped at the Rixos Hotel had been released while heavy fighting continued in the Abu Salim region close to Bab al-Azizia and elsewhere.[256] The rebels were reported as estimating 400 people had been killed and a further 2,000 injured in the battle thus far.[49]

After Tripoli and NTC victory

Efforts to mop up pro-Gaddafi forces in northwestern Libya and toward Sirte began even before the rebels fully consolidated control of Tripoli. Rebels took the city of Ghadames near the borders of Tunisia and Algeria on 29 August. Members of the Gaddafi family have taken flight to Algeria. In September, the Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid was besieged by rebels, who reported that Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam was hiding in the city.[257] On 22 September, the NTC captured the southern city of Sabha, and claimed to have found a large cache of chemical weapons.[258] Concerns were raised over the danger of Gaddafi mounting an insurgency against the new authorities.[259]

By mid-October 2011, much of the city of Sirte had been taken by NTC forces, although fierce fighting continued around the city center, where many pro-Gaddafi fighters were encamped.[260] The NTC captured the whole of Sirte on 20 October 2011, and reported that Gaddafi himself had been killed in the city.[261][262] Some civilian Gaddafi supporters remaining in the city reported that women and children had been killed in crossfire or fired upon by rebel forces. There were also reports of harassment and theft by rebels, however the rebel army indicated it would leave unarmed civilians "to their own devices", and had allowed families in the city access to supplies and medical assistance.[263]

Humanitarian situation

By the end of February 2011, supplies of medicine, fuel and food were dangerously low in Libya's urban centres.[264] On 25 February, the International Committee of the Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for US$6.4 million to meet the emergency needs of people affected by the violent unrest in Libya.[265] In early March, the fighting across Libya meant that more than a million people fleeing or inside the country needed humanitarian aid.[266][267] The Islamic Relief and the WFP also coordinated a shipment of humanitarian supplies to Misrata.[268] In March, the Swedish government donated medical supplies and other humanitarian aid and the UN World Food Programme provided food. Turkey sent a hospital ship to Misrata and a Turkish cargo ship brought 141 tons of humanitarian aid.[268][269]

Another humanitarian issue was refugees fleeing the crisis. A humanitarian ship docked in harbour of Misrata in April to begin the evacuation of stranded migrants.[270] By 10 July, over 150,000 migrants were evacutated.[271] Migrants were also stranded elsewhere in Libya, such as in the southern towns of Sebha and Gatroum. Fleeing the violence of Tripoli by road, as many as 4,000 refugees were crossing the Libya–Tunisia border daily during the first days of the uprising. Among those escaping the violence were native Libyans as well as foreign nationals including Egyptians, Tunisians and Turks.[272]

Potential military–humanitarian coordination

While the UN sanctioned military intervention has been implemented on humanitarian grounds, UN agencies seeking to ease the humanitarian crisis repeatedly rejected offers of support from the military to carry out the agencies' humanitarian operations.[273] The conditions under which such support may be accepted are outlined in the Guidelines on the Use of Military and Civil Defence Assets to Support United Nations Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies (MCDA), whereby military support can be used but only temporarily and as a last resort.[273] Yet, there remains the concern that aid agencies' neutrality will be brought into question by accepting military support, putting aid staff at risk of being attacked and causing some parties to prevent the agencies accessing all the areas they need to.[273] Furthermore, the military may not always have the technical skills required to assess the need for aid and to ensure its effective distribution.[273] Despite this, offers continue for the creation of an aid corridor and aid agencies have accepted military logistical support in the past, for instance in the 2010 Pakistan floods response.[273]

Targeting of black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans

In August 2011, the UNHCR issued a strong call for the rights and lives of sub-Saharan Africans living in Libya to be protected due to reports that black Africans were being targeted by the rebel forces as cities fell.[274] Other news sources including The Independent and CNN have reported on the targeting of black people in rebel held areas.[275]

An Amnesty International statement, released on 30 August 2011, stated that on visits to detention centres in Zawiya and Tripoli, Amnesty International was informed that between one third and half of those detained were from Sub-Saharan Africa. A New York Times online article also comments that "it seems that plenty of the black Africans captured as mercenaries were never actually involved in the fight".[276] "Hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans worked in Gaddafi's Libya, doing everything from managing hotels to sweeping floors. But some also fought as pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, and many migrant workers [-] fled ahead of the rebels, fearing they would be mistaken for mercenaries."[277]

The Miami Herald reported that some African women have claimed rebels are raping them in refugee camps, with additional reports of forced labour. Foreign aid workers are also claiming to be prohibited from officially talking about the allegations.[278]

The town of Taworgha, which supported Gaddafi prior to its capture by anti-Gaddafi fighters in August, has been emptied of its mostly black inhabitants in what appeared to be a "major reprisal against supporters of the Gaddafi regime", according to an 11 September report from The Sunday Telegraph, and commanders of the Misrata Brigade are refusing to allow the displaced townspeople to return. One commander was quoted as saying, "Taworgha no longer exists."[279]

Libyan refugees

Fleeing the violence of Tripoli by road, as many as 4,000 refugees were crossing the Libya–Tunisia border daily during the first days of the uprising. Among those, escaping the violence, were native Libyans as well as foreign nationals including Egyptians, Tunisians and Turks.[280] In February, Italian Foreign Minister Frattini expressed his concerns that the amount of Libyan refugees trying to reach Italy might reach between 200,000 and 300,000 people.[281] By 1 March, officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had confirmed allegations of discrimination against sub-Saharan Africans who were held in dangerous conditions in the no-man's-land between Tunisia and Libya.[282] By 3 March, an estimated 200,000 refugees had fled Libya to either Tunisia or Egypt. A provisional refugee camp set up at Ras Ejder with a capacity for 10,000 was overflowing with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 refugees. Many tens of thousands were still trapped on the Libyan side of the frontier. By 3 March, the situation was described as a logistical nightmare, with the World Health Organization warning of the risk of epidemics.[283]

To continue responding to the needs of people staying at the Ras Ejder crossing point in Tunisia, the WFP and Secours Islamique-France were upgrading a kitchen that would provide breakfast for families. Separately, the ICRC advised it was handing over its operations at the Choucha Camp to the Tunisian Red Crescent.[284] Since 24 March, the WFP supplied over 42,500 cooked meals for TCNs at the Saloum border. A total of 1,650 cartons of fortified date bars (equivalent of 13.2 metric tons) had also been provided to supplement these meals.[268]

The Sunday Telegraph reported on 11 September that almost the entire population of Taworgha, a town of about 10,000 people, had been forced to flee their homes by anti-Gaddafi fighters after their takeover of the settlement. The report suggested that Taworgha, which was dominated by black Libyans, may have been the subject of ethnic cleansing provoked by a combination of racism and bitterness on the part of Misratan fighters over the town's support for Gaddafi during the siege of Misrata.[279]


People in Dublin, Ireland, protesting against Muammar Gaddafi's use of violence against Libyans (19 March 2011).

Independent numbers of dead and injured in the conflict have still not been made available. Estimates have been widely varied.

On 24 February 2011, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting reported that the International Criminal Court estimated 10,000 had been killed.[285] The numbers of injured were estimated to be around 4,000 by 22 February.[286]

On 2 March, the World Health Organization estimated approximately 2,000 killed.[287] At the same time, the opposition claimed that 6,500 people had died.[288] Later, rebel spokesman Abdul Hafiz Ghoga reported that the death toll reached 8,000.[289]

In June 2011, Amnesty International stated that earlier estimates of the initial clashes in February were exaggerated. It estimated that during the first few days of the conflict, 100 to 110 people were killed in Benghazi and 59 to 64 were killed in Baida.[43]

On 8 September, Naji Barakat, the Health Minister of the National Transitional Council, stated that about half of an estimated 30,000 dead were believed to have been pro-Gaddafi fighters. War wounded were estimated as at least 50,000, of which about 20,000 were serious injuries, but this estimate was expected to rise.[36] However, there was no independent verification of the Health Minister's claim and, one month later, the NTC reduced the estimated number of killed to 25,000.[35]

Domestic responses

Resignation of government officials

In response to the use of force against protesters, a number of senior Libyan public officials either renounced the Gaddafi government or resigned from their positions. Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil and Interior Minister Major General Abdul Fatah Younis both defected to the opposition. Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem and Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa fled Libya, with the latter defecting to the UK.[290][291] Libyan Prosecutor General Abdul-Rahman al-Abbar resigned his position and joined the opposition.[292]

The staff of a number of diplomatic missions of Libya have either resigned or condemned the actions of the Gaddafi government. The ambassadors to the Arab League, European Union and United Nations have either resigned or stated that they no longer support the government.[293][294][295] The ambassadors to Australia,[296] Bangladesh, Belgium,[294] France,[297] India,[293] Indonesia,[291] Malaysia, Nigeria, Portugal,[298] Sweden,[299] and the US[300] also renounced the Gaddafi government or formally resigned.

Military defections

A number of senior military officials defected to the opposition, including General Abdul Fatah Younis, General al-Barani Ashkal,[301] Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, Brigadier General Musa'ed Ghaidan Al Mansouri, Brigadier General Hassan Ibrahim Al Qarawi and Brigadier General Dawood Issa Al Qafsi. Two Libyan Air Force colonels each flew their Mirage F1 fighter jets to Malta and requested asylum, after being ordered to carry out airstrikes against civilian protesters in Benghazi.[302][303] Colonel Nuretin Hurala, the commander of the Benghazi Naval Base also defected along with senior naval officials.[304]

Economic, religious and tribal

The Libyan economy is mainly based on its oil production. The Arabian Gulf Oil Company, the second-largest state-owned oil company in Libya, announced plans to use oil funds to support anti-Gaddafi forces.[305] Islamic leaders and clerics in Libya, notably the Network of Free Ulema – Libya urged all Muslims to rebel against Gaddafi.[306][307] The Warfalla, Tuareg and Magarha tribes announced their support of the protesters.[308][309] The Zuwayya tribe, based in eastern Libya, threatened to cut off oil exports from fields in its part of Libya if Libyan security forces continued attacking demonstrators.[309]

Libyan royal family

A young Benghazian carrying (deposed) King Idris' photo. Support of the Senussi dynasty has traditionally been strong in Cyrenaica.[310]

Muhammad as-Senussi, son of the former Crown Prince and grand-nephew of the late King Idris,[311] sent his condolences "for the heroes who have laid down their lives, killed by the brutal forces of Gaddafi" and called on the international community "to halt all support for the dictator with immediate effect."[312] as-Senussi said that the protesters would be "victorious in the end" and calls for international support to end the violence. On 24 February, as-Senussi gave an interview to Al Jazeera where he called upon the international community to help remove Gaddafi from power and stop the ongoing "massacre".[313] He dismissed talk of a civil war saying "The Libyan people and the tribes have proven they are united". He later stated that international community needs "less talk and more action" to stop the violence.[314] He asked for a no-fly zone over Libya but does not support foreign ground troops.[315] On 20 April, Mohammed spoke in front of the European Parliament calling for more support for Libya.[316] He also stated that he will support any form of government that Libya will choose after Gaddafi including a constitutional monarchy.[317]

A rival claimant to the throne, Idris bin Abdullah al-Senussi, announced in an interview with Adnkronos that he was ready to return to Libya and "assume leadership" once change had been initiated.[318] On 21 February, he made an appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight to discuss the uprising.[319] In March, it was reported Idris bin Abdullah had held meetings at the State Department and Congress in Washington with US government officials. It was also reported attempts at contact had been initiated by French and Saudi officials.[320] On 3 March, it was reported that another member of the family, Prince Zouber al-Senussi, had fled Libya with his family and was seeking asylum in Totebo, Sweden.[321]

International reactions

A total of 19 charter flights evacuated Chinese citizens from Libya via Malta.[322] Here a chartered China Eastern Airlines Airbus A340 is seen at Malta International Airport on 26 February 2011.

Many states and supranational bodies condemned Gaddafi's government over its attacks on civilian targets within the country. Virtually all Western countries cut off diplomatic relations with Gaddafi's government over an aerial bombing campaign in February and March, and a number of other countries led by Peru and Botswana did likewise. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 was adopted on 26 February, freezing the assets of Gaddafi and ten members of his inner circle and restricting their travel. The resolution also referred the actions of the government to the International Criminal Court for investigation,[45] and an arrest warrant for Gaddafi was issued on 27 June.[323] This was followed by an arrest warrant issued by Interpol on 8 September.[324]

The government's use of the Libyan Air Force to strike civilians led to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to create a Libyan no-fly zone on 17 March, though several countries involved in the resolution's enforcement have also carried out regular strike missions to degrade the offensive capacity of the Libyan Army and destroy the government's command and control capabilities, effectively acting in de facto support of anti-Gaddafi forces on the ground. 100 countries have recognized the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council as Libya's legitimate representative, with many of those countries explicitly describing it as the legal interim government of the country due to the perceived loss of legitimacy on the part of Gaddafi's government.

Many states have also either issued travel advisories or attempted evacuations. Some evacuations were successful in either going to Malta or via land borders to Egypt or Tunisia; other attempts were hindered by tarmac damage at Benghazi's airport or refusals of permission to land in Tripoli. There were also several solidarity protests in other countries that were mostly composed of Libyan expatriates. Financial markets around the world had adverse reactions to the instability with oil prices rising to a two-and-a-half year high.

See also


  1. ^ http://twitter.com/#!/AP
  2. ^ "AJE Live Blog". Blogs.aljazeera.net. 2011-10-20. http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/libya-oct-20-2011-1646-0. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  3. ^ "Ferocious Battles in Libya as National Council Meets for First Time". News Limited. 6 March 2011. http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/ferocious-battles-in-libya-as-national-council-meets-for-first-time/story-e6frfku0-1226016536676. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Dagher, Sam (21 June 2011). "Libya City Torn by Tribal Feud". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304887904576395143328336026.html. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
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