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Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011) was the dictator of the North African nation of Libya from 1969 until his overthrow during the Arab Spring. For much of his career, Gaddafi was the following:
- An outspoken critic of the United States
- Gaddafi sponsored state terrorism
- Gaddafi was at the root of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland
Gaddafi was born in a tent in the Libya desert to an undistinguished family. Raised as a Bedouin, Gaddafi's early schooling exposed him to the growing pan-Arab movement, led by Egyptian President Nasser. After a brief period at the University of Libya in Benghazi, Gaddafi joined the Army in 1963, where he formed a secret revolutionary group, the Central Committee of the Free Officers Movement. In 1969, the group staged a coup, declaring the Libyan Arab Republic.
From the start, Colonel Gaddafi was the leader of Libya, nationalizing the oil industry and suppressing tribalism. In 1973, he started the "Popular Revolution" in Libya, establishing tight control over the people. Gaddafi increased his control in 1977, and shepherded Libya towards socialism. During the 1980s, Gaddafi came into conflict with US President Reagan, who considered Libya to be a puppet state of the USSR.
The relationship between Libya and the US began to soften in the early 2000s, as Gaddafi renounced terrorism. However, this proved to be short-lived, as Gaddafi was toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Taken prisoner by a militia group, Gaddafi's final moments were captured on video and spread across the Internet.