View Photo Gallery — Moammar Gaddafi had ruled Libya for more than 40 years. With the capture of his hometown stronghold of Sirte, the new Libyan government has declared victory over the last major pro-Gaddafi resistance.
Col. Moammar Gaddafi, Libya’s eccentric and unpredictable leader for more than 40 years, who brought his oil-rich country to international pariah status, tried to restore it as a member in good standing in the global community and was ultimately deposed by a nationwide uprising, died Thursday in Sirte, his home town. His death was confirmed by Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.
Col. Gaddafi had been in hiding since late August, when he fled his home in Tripoli as rebel fighters advanced. Fighting continued for two months, as pockets of his supporters put up fierce resistance in a few holdout towns, leading to speculation that he might be holed up in one of them. He was believed to be 69 years old when he died, although his exact birthdate was not known, and at his death, had been one of the world’s longest-serving rulers.
Many in the international community had long dismissed him as a clown for his quirky behavior. He traveled, for example, with an all-female praetorian guard and received guests in a Bedouin tent. But his end, like much of his rule, was unforgivably brutal. He was killed as fighters made a final push into Sirte.
Col. Gaddafi’s downfall was part of a transformative revolt in the Middle East and North Africa that pitted thousands of determined citizen demonstrators against aging dictators and despots.
The authoritarian rulers of Libya’s neighbors, Tunisia and Egypt, had been ousted before protesters took to the streets of eastern Libya in February. As demonstrations spread toward the capital of Tripoli, Col. Gaddafi vowed to hunt down his critics “alley by alley, house by house” and ordered his security forces to gun down unarmed demonstrators.
Libya’s authoritarian leader had been linked to terrorism and criticized for funding revolutions across the region, but has taken steps to improve relations with the West over the past decade.
PHOTOS: File photos, Associated Press and AFP via Getty Images | GRAPHIC: By Todd Lindeman and Tobey / The Washington Post - Feb. 23, 2011
1969: At the age of 27, Moammar Gaddafi leads a bloodless military coup against King Idris and becomes head of the Revolutionary Command Council, the country’s most important role. His proposed merger with Sudan and Egypt fails, along with a series of subsequent Arab alliances he attempts.
PHOTO: Gaddafi in 1972.