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A view of the Benghazi port, 2013
A view of the Benghazi port, 2013
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Libya (/ˈlɪbiə/ (listen); Arabic: ليبيا, romanizedLībiyā), officially the State of Libya (Arabic: دولة ليبيا, romanizedDawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. Libya is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 700,000 square miles (1.8 million km2), it is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the Arab world, and the 16th-largest in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over three million of Libya's seven million people.

Libya has been inhabited by Berbers since the late Bronze Age as descendants from Iberomaurusian and Capsian cultures. In ancient times the Phoenicians established city-states and trading posts in western Libya while more recently the Ottoman Empire controlled the northern coastline of Libya. Parts of Libya were variously ruled by Carthaginians, Persians, Egyptians and Macedonians before the entire region becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early center of Christianity. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area of Libya was mostly occupied by the Vandals until the 7th century when invasions brought Islam to the region. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John occupied Tripoli until Ottoman rule began in 1551. Libya was involved in the Barbary Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ottoman rule continued until the Italo-Turkish War which resulted in the Italian occupation of Libya and the establishment of two colonies, Italian Tripolitania and Italian Cyrenaica (1911–1934), later unified in the Italian Libya colony from 1934 to 1947.

During the Second World War, Libya was an area of warfare in the North African Campaign. The Italian population then went into decline. Libya became independent as a kingdom in 1951. A bloodless military coup in 1969, initiated by a coalition led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, overthrew King Idris I and created a republic. Gaddafi was often described by critics as a dictator, and was one of the world's longest serving non-royal leaders, ruling for 42 years. He ruled until being overthrown and killed in the 2011 Libyan Civil War, with authority transferred to the General National Congress. By 2014 two rival authorities claimed to govern Libya, destabilizing the country and leading to a second civil war, with parts of Libya split between the Tobruk and Tripoli-based governments as well as various tribal and Islamist militias. The two main warring sides signed a permanent ceasefire on 23 October 2020 and a unity government took authority.

Libya is a member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Arab League, the OIC and OPEC. The country's official religion is Islam, with 96.6% of the Libyan population being Sunni Muslims.

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King Idris in 1960

Idris (Arabic: إدريس الأول; El Sayyid Prince Muhammad Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi; 13 March 1890 – 25 May 1983) was a Libyan political and religious leader who served as the Emir of Cyrenaica and then as the King of the United Kingdom of Libya (renamed as the Kingdom of Libya in 1963) from 1951 to 1969. He was the chief of the Senussi Muslim order.

Idris was born into the Senussi Order. When his cousin, Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi, abdicated as leader of the Order, Idris took his position. The Senussi campaign was taking place, with the British and Italians fighting the Order. Idris put an end to the hostilities and, through the Modus vivendi of Acroma, abandoned Ottoman protection. Between 1919 and 1920, Italy recognized Senussi control over most of Cyrenaica in exchange for the recognition of Italian sovereignty by Idris. Idris then led his Order in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the eastern part of the Tripolitanian Republic. (Full article...)
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Gaddafi, pictured shortly after his seizure of power, on a visit to Yugoslavia in 1970

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (c. 1942 – 20 October 2011) was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He was the de facto leader of Libya from 1969 to 2011, first as Revolutionary Chairman of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then as the "Brotherly Leader" of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. Initially ideologically committed to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism, he later ruled according to his own Third International Theory.


Born near Sirte, Italian Libya, to a poor Bedouin family, Gaddafi became an Arab nationalist while at school in Sabha, later enrolling in the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi. Within the military, he founded a revolutionary group which deposed the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of Idris in a 1969 coup. Having taken power, Gaddafi converted Libya into a republic governed by his Revolutionary Command Council. Ruling by decree, he deported Libya's Italian population and ejected its Western military bases. Strengthening ties to Arab nationalist governments—particularly Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt—he unsuccessfully advocated pan-Arab political union. An Islamic modernist, he introduced sharia as the basis for the legal system and promoted "Islamic socialism". He nationalized the oil industry and used the increasing state revenues to bolster the military, fund foreign revolutionaries, and implement social programs emphasizing house-building, healthcare and education projects. In 1973, he initiated a "Popular Revolution" with the formation of Basic People's Congresses, presented as a system of direct democracy, but retained personal control over major decisions. He outlined his Third International Theory that year in The Green Book. (Full article...)

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  • ... that to repel migrants, the European Union has paid hundreds of millions of euros to Libyan partners known to be involved in human trafficking, slavery, and torture?

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