October 21, 2011 — Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi (pronounced kah-da-fee) who ruled the country of Libya for over 40 years, and treated its people very poorly, was captured and killed yesterday.
Qaddafi was considered to be a particularly awful person, who was known to imprison and sometimes kill people who disagreed with him. Because his rule had been exceptionally long, many Libyans were relieved to learn the news. Some even celebrated. For many, Qaddafi was the only leader they’d had in their lifetime.
Qaddafi had a bad reputation internationally, as well. He was linked to terrorist activities all over the world, some of which claimed Americans’ lives.
Over the past ten years or so, however, Qaddafi seemed to try to change his image so that he could be more accepted in the international community. Leaders of democratic nations, including the U.S., and international agencies such as the United Nations, began to include him in discussions.
But that changed again over the past few months.
Libya is part of a group of Arab and North African countries that have been going through a lot of changes recently. Thousands of people in countries in this region, including Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Syria have decided they want more freedom and better opportunities. Regular citizens have gathered by the thousands in the hopes that if rulers see that so many them of want change, the governments will listen.
In many cases, these governments don’t generally allow for that kind of expression, especially in opposition to rulers. But millions of people in the region have gained courage and felt empowered by watching their neighboring countries experience change. Unfortunately, in many cases it has turned violent because of government crackdowns on protest.
Two months ago, many Libyans decided it was their turn. Protests against Qaddafi started out peacefully but turned violent. Opposition fighters resisted military crackdowns and fought to take over some of Libya’s cities in an attempt to remove Qaddafi from power. Qaddafi and his army fought back. In August, opposition forces took control of Libya’s capital city, Tripoli. At that point, Qaddafi went into hiding. But he still wouldn’t give up power saying that he’d rather die than surrender.
During all of this unrest, the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC) formed. The NTC is a temporary government to help stablize Libya until a permanent government can be formed (which is very challenging and could take months or even years). The NTC wants Libya to become a democracy.
The NTC and its forces had been backed by NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) which is a military alliance of 26 countries, and includes the United States. NATO also played a role in supporting the removal of Qaddafi from power over the past few months.
Reports out of Libya yesterday said that NATO targeted a convoy of cars in Qaddafi’s hometown, Surt. Though NATO said it wasn’t sure at the time, the convoy included Qaddafi. As he tried to escape, and amid some confusion and conflicting accounts, he was captured by unidentified armed men and killed.