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Moammar Gadhafi


Moammar Gadhafi
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Who is he?:

The dictator of Libya since 1969 and the third-longest serving world ruler. Also known as being one of the most eccentric world rulers, from his days of sponsoring terrorism to recent years when he tried to make nice with the world and be seen as wise problem-solver. Killed when he was cornered by rebels while on the run in his hometown, Sirte.


June 7, 1942, in Surt, Tripolitania (a former administrative district of Libya). The youngest born to a peasant family of desert nomads, Gadhafi still travels with a Bedouin tent for entertaining and receiving guests wherever in the world he goes. As a child, Gadhafi was expelled from his secondary school for pro-Nasser activism aligned with the Arab unification-promoting president of Egypt.

Personal life:

Gadhafi has had two wives, by which he's had seven sons and one daughter. His daughter, Ayesha al-Gaddafi, is best known for being on the team that defended Saddam Hussein after his arrest in Iraq. His second son, Saif Al Islam, is widely credited with convincing his father to give up Libya's weapons of mass destruction and be welcomed back into the world community. Though often mentioned as a possible successor to his father, Saif Al Islam denies interest in a political life and focuses on charity work. Gadhafi also had an adopted daughter, Hannah, who was killed at age 4 in 1986 when the U.S. bombed Libya.

Political affiliation:

Gadhafi changed Libya from a republic to the socialist and nationalist "jamahiriya." He wrote about his Islamic socialist philosophy in the Green Book.


Gadhafi graduated from the military academy in Benghazi in 1965. By this point, he'd already begun to plot the overthrow of Libya's monarchy along with other students. As a junior officer in the army, Gadhafi led a bloodless coup in 1969 that overthrew the pro-Western King Idris. Gadhafi proceeded to expel the Italian population from the country and was chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, as well as prime minister for a short time. Gadhafi's current title of "colonel" is a ceremonial promotion from his rank as captain at the time of the coup.


With his entrance into the world community after giving up Libya's WMD, Gadhafi seized on the booming popularity of the Internet to wax long essays about his solutions to the world's problems. This has included advocating abolishing the U.N Security Council, creating a state called "Isratine" to solve the Mideast conflict, and a United States of Africa to unite his continent. His first trip to the United States to address the General Assembly in 2009 solidified his reputation as an eccentric, with a rambling 96-minute address on loose-leaf notebook paper that reportedly drove his personal translator to tears. His rule came to an end, though, after months of rebel fighting in a bloody 2011 uprising against his despotic rule. On the run, Gadhafi was killed by rebel forces on Oct. 20, 2011.


"The U.S. must not reward those who join the war on terrorism because fighting that evil is not a service for the U.S. It is an act that serves one’s own interests. Who of us likes terrorism? Who of us would wish to live, or see his children and his country live, in a world where terrorism has free reign? Terrorism is a horrendous scourge." -- from "The Leader’s Analysis of the current Crisis of Terrorism in the World" essay
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