Libya in chaos since 2011 overthrow of Gaddafi

AFP , Sunday 19 Jan 2020

Fighters loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) patrol an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 12, 2020 (Photo: AFP)

Oil-rich Libya has been mired in chaos since the ouster and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with two rival authorities and a multitude of militias now vying for control.

The country's internationally recognised unity government is based in Tripoli while eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar supports a parallel administration based in the east.

Here is a timeline of the Mediterranean country's descent into turmoil.

Kadhafi killed

Triggered by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrations erupt in Libya in February 2011. A coalition led by Washington, Paris and London lends its backing to an armed revolt.

Kadhafi, in power for 42 years, flees the capital but is captured and killed on October 20, 2011.

Three days later, the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) declares Libya's "total liberation".

In August 2012 the NTC hands power to a transitional authority, the General National Congress (GNC).

Embassies targeted

US ambassador Chris Stevens and three American staff are killed in a September 11, 2012 attack on their consulate in Libya's second city Benghazi. An Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group is blamed.

A car bomb in April 2013 targets France's embassy in Tripoli, wounding two French guards.

Most foreign delegations withdraw.

Rival governments

Dissident army general Haftar launches an offensive in May 2014 against jihadist groups in Benghazi. He is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Several military officers from the east join his self-styled Libyan National Army.

As nationalists and Islamists vie for power, legislative polls are held in June and a parliament is elected, dominated by anti-Islamists.

But Islamist-led militias contest the results and storm Tripoli in August, restoring the GNC to power.

The elected house, which has international recognition, takes refuge in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Thus the country finds itself with two governments and two parliaments.

After months of negotiations and international pressure, lawmakers from the rival parliaments sign an accord in December 2015 to set up a Government of National Accord (GNA) which is recognised by the UN.

In March 2016 GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj arrives in Tripoli to set up the new government. But Haftar's rival administration refuses to recognise its authority.


In December 2016, the GNA announces forces it commands have ousted the Islamic State group from Kadhafi's coastal hometown of Sirte.

In July 2017, Haftar announces the "total liberation" of Benghazi from jihadists.

Sarraj and Haftar meet in Paris in May 2018 and agree to work together for new elections. But divisions between them only deepen.

Haftar on the move

In January 2019, Haftar launches an offensive into oil-rich southern Libya, ostensibly aimed at wiping out "terrorists" and criminal groups.

His forces seize the region's capital Sebha and one of the country's main oil fields, without a fight.

In April, his forces begin an offensive to take Tripoli from the GNA. It results in clashes that leave more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters dead in nine months.

The conflict draws in other countries, with Turkey and Qatar supporting the GNA while Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates back Haftar.

Russia is reported to have sent mercenaries to support Haftar, although it denies the charges.

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