Muammar Qaddafi burst onto the international stage in September 1969, when the 27-year-old Libyan army officer led a bloodless coup against King Idris. The country's new ruler was driven both by Arab nationalism fueled by Israel's victories in 1948 and 1967 and by hatred for the West, shaped by Libya's past as an Italian colony. Above, Qaddafi answers reporters' questions in Paris.

Photographer: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Muammar Qaddafi burst onto the international stage in September 1969, when the 27-year-old Libyan army officer led a bloodless coup against King Idris. The country's new ruler was driven both by Arab nationalism fueled by Israel's victories in 1948 and 1967 and by hatred for the West, shaped by Libya's past as an Italian colony. Above, Qaddafi answers reporters' questions in Paris.

Photographer: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Qaddafi's Libya: The Brutal and the Bizarre

Qaddafi Takes Control
Qaddafi Takes Control

Muammar Qaddafi burst onto the international stage in September 1969, when the 27-year-old Libyan army officer led a bloodless coup against King Idris. The country's new ruler was driven both by Arab nationalism fueled by Israel's victories in 1948 and 1967 and by hatred for the West, shaped by Libya's past as an Italian colony. Above, Qaddafi answers reporters' questions in Paris.

Photographer: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Qaddafi and Terrorism
Qaddafi and Terrorism

On the morning of Dec. 27, 1985, four gunmen opened fire at the ticket counter for Israel's El Al Airlines at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome (above). The attacks there and at Vienna International Airport left 19 dead and 140 wounded and led to charges that Libya was backing the Abu Nidal terrorists. Libyan officials denied this, but praised the operation and backed a range of anti-Western groups.

Photographer: Gianni Foggia/Associated Press

Showdown in the Gulf of Sidra
Showdown in the Gulf of Sidra

Several times in the 1980s, the U.S. Navy challenged Qaddafi's territorial claims to the Gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1981 and 1989, Navy F-14 jets shot down Libyan fighters (including MIG-23s, above). The incidents signaled the Reagan Administration's policy of getting tough with regimes that support terror. The relationship would turn far more deadly after the 1981 dogfight.

Photographer: US Navy/DOD via Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Berlin Discotheque Bombing
Berlin Discotheque Bombing

The La Belle disco was a popular spot with American soldiers based in Berlin, making it a target for anti-American terrorists. On the night of Apr. 5, 1986, a bomb exploded there, killing three and wounding 229 (above). U.S. officials quickly blamed Libya, citing intercepted messages to Qaddafi's agents. Years later, a German court found a Libyan agent guilty of aiding attempted murder. Retribution would be swift.

Photographer: Andreas Schoelzel/Associated Press

The U.S. Strikes Back
The U.S. Strikes Back

Just 10 days after the Berlin disco bombing, F-111 Air Force bombers took off from bases in England and were soon joined by Navy attack aircraft from carriers in the Mediterranean. They smashed a Tripoli airfield, a naval base, and barracks used for terrorist training (above). They missed Qaddafi. According to Libyan government officials, his adopted infant daughter was among the 60 people killed.

Photographer: Gamma via Getty Images

Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103

Four days before Christmas 1988, a suitcase bomb exploded in the forward cargo hold of a 747, blowing it apart as it flew from London to New York. All 259 people on Flight 103 were killed, as were 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, when flaming debris rained down on them (above). Suspicion centered on Libya after a search turned up a fragment of circuit board that was tied to Libyan intelligence officials.

Photographer: Tom Stoddart/Getty Images

U.N. Applies Pressure
U.N. Applies Pressure

Three years of joint Scottish-U.S. investigations led to murder indictments against two Libyan Arab Airlines officials for the Pan Am bombing. Qaddafi refused to turn them over. The United Nations increased the pressure, approving a ban on air travel and on arms sales. Libyans protested (above). Qaddafi eventually relented and in January 2001 Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted in the Netherlands and sentenced to life in prison.

Photographer: Yousef Allan/Associated Press

Libya Expels Palestinians
Libya Expels Palestinians

Muammar Qaddafi's longtime support for the Palestinian cause was unwavering -- and inflexible. Qaddafi was enraged when the Palestinian Liberation Organization reached a peace accord with Israel and later, an agreement on self-rule. He lashed out at the thousands of Palestinians living and working in Libya, confiscating their homes and driving them out of the country (above).

Photographer: Amr Nabeel/AFP/Getty Images

Qaddafi Welcomes Farrakhan
Qaddafi Welcomes Farrakhan

The Libyan leader has never been shy about parceling out oil cash to favored causes. In 1996 he caused a stir when he tried to give $1 billion to the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan (above). The money was blocked by the U.S. government, which listed Qaddafi's government as a sponsor of terror.

Photographer: Lino Azzopardi/Associated Press

Qaddafi's Quirks
Qaddafi's Quirks

Libya's leader has always been … different. He surrounded himself with an all-female security guard and was watched closely by a handful of Ukrainian nurses. U.S. embassy cables obtained by Wikileaks describe Qaddafi's fear of flying over water and his desire not to climb more than 35 steps at a time. The cables noted his enthusiasm for Flamenco dancing.

Photographer: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

The Family Qaddafi
The Family Qaddafi

One source of resentment against Qaddafi’s rule has been the favored status of his sons. One of them, Al-Saadi, bought his way onto an Italian soccer team (above), though the team manager largely refused to play him. Another son, Saif, was awarded a PhD by the London School of Economics, to which he gave $2.5 million. According to a U.S. cable, brother Muatassim paid Mariah Carey $1 million to sing four songs at a Caribbean New Year's party on St. Barts.

Photographer: Grazia Neri/Getty Images

Qaddafi Comes in From the Cold
Qaddafi Comes in From the Cold

In September 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush signed an order lifting commercial sanctions against Libya. It was Libya's reward for giving up its drive to develop chemical and nuclear weapons. Four years later, Qaddafi made the final payments on $2.7 billion in compensation to families of the Pan Am bombing victims after the U.S. State Dept. removed Libya from its list of terrorism sponsors.

Photographer: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images

Lockerbie Bomber Released
Lockerbie Bomber Released

In August 2009, the Scottish government unexpectedly released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi (above, third from left), who had been convicted for his role in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, just eight years into his sentence. The Scots explained that al-Megrahi was dying of prostate cancer. Many in the West were furious -- especially after U.S. embassy cables revealed that Libya had threatened Britain with commercial retaliation if al-Megrahi weren’t released.

Photographer: AFP/Getty Images

A Scolding for the U.N.
A Scolding for the U.N.

Making his first appearance before the United Nations in 40 years, Qaddafi lived up to his reputation for the bizarre in September 2009. His rambling, 90-minute speech demanded further investigation into John F. Kennedy's murder and suggested that swine flu was a weapon created in a lab. Qaddafi gave New York's tabloids fodder when he tried to set up his Bedouin tent on a suburban lot owned by Donald Trump.

Photographer: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Arab Spring Comes to Libya
Arab Spring Comes to Libya

Compared with Tunisians and Egyptians, Libyans are well-off and well-educated. Still, years of corruption and high unemployment -- and the heavy hand of Qaddafi's security forces -- primed Libya for the revolutionary spirit sweeping North Africa. Protests began over housing shortages in towns to the East and quickly spread, then expanded to include broad appeals for political change.

Photographer: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Qaddafi Cracks Down
Qaddafi Cracks Down

Following the swift overthrow of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, Qaddafi took no chances. His army and air force, aided by African mercenaries hired with Libya’s oil wealth, struck with brutal force. International outrage was stoked when the Khamis Brigade, special forces led by one of Qaddafi's sons, gunned down unarmed protestors in full view of media.

Photographer: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. and Europe Step In
The U.S. and Europe Step In

After weeks of debate, the United Nations in early March approved the use of force to create a no-fly zone and to protect Libyan civilians. On Mar. 19, U.S. aircraft struck Libyan military positions. President Barack Obama said: "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy." NATO assumed leadership and continued a five-month-long pounding that proved critical to the rebels' success.

Photographer: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Qaddafi Won't Back Down
Qaddafi Won't Back Down

Even as U.S. and European forces struck Libyan forces, diplomats worked behind the scenes to coax Qaddafi to leave peacefully. The Obama Administration sought an African country that would take the Libyan leader without exposing him to prosecution for the Lockerbie bombing or actions against his own people. Qaddafi, meanwhile, delivered a rambling speech on Apr. 30 in which he offered the rebels cars and money if they would lay down their arms.

Photographer: Libyan TV via AFP/Getty Images

The Fall of Tripoli
The Fall of Tripoli

On Aug. 20, untrained rebels found themselves in position for a coordinated push on Tripoli, Qaddafi's stronghold. That and protests within the city flushed Qaddafi loyalists into the open for NATO planes to target. As opposition crumbled, three of Qaddafi's sons were reported captured. Saif then turned up at a hotel press conference, proving otherwise with taunts for the rebels. Chaotic fighting continued in isolated pockets as the search continued for Libya's ruler of 42 years. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, declared: "The era of Qaddafi is over."

Photographer: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Muammar Qaddafi Killed
Muammar Qaddafi Killed

Muammar Qaddafi was killed on Oct. 20 after rebel troops led by the Misrata Military Council assaulted his hometown of Sirte. It was unclear how he died. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Qaddafi’s attempt to escape from Sirte was foiled by French planes. Libyan TV showed a bloody but alive Qaddafi being led around, and later his corpse. “Qaddafi has been killed at the hand of the revolutionaries,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the country’s National Transitional Council, told reporters in Benghazi, where the revolt began. Qaddafi was 69.

Photographer: Victor Sokolowicz/Bloomberg

Qaddafi on Video
Qaddafi on Video

This video frame grab image taken from Libyan TV, purports to show former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi alive and surrounded by revolutionary fighters in Libya on Oct. 20, 2011. The video shows a wounded Qaddafi with a blood-soaked shirt and bloodied face leaning up against the hood of a truck and restrained by fighters.

Photograph: Libyan TV/AP