CNN Editorial Research

Here’s some background information about Libya, an oil-rich country in North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan.

About Libya (from the CIA World Factbook)

Area: 1,759,540 square kilometers (slightly larger than Alaska)

Population: 7,017,224 (July 2021 est.)

Median age: 25.8 years

Capital: Tripoli

Ethnic groups: Berber and Arab 97%, other 3% (includes Greeks, Maltese, Italians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Turks, Indians and Tunisians)

Religion: Sunni Muslim 96.6%, other is 3.4%

Unemployment: 30% (2004 est.)

Other Facts

Libya has proven oil reserves estimated at 48.4 billion barrels, the most in Africa.

Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya from 1969 to 2011. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was known for supporting Palestinian terrorist groups. In the late 1990s, Gadhafi made steps toward rapprochement with the West.

A Libyan civil war began in 2011 with clashes between the government and rebel forces, and that fueled a second war that is still ongoing. The administration of General Khalifa Haftar, in eastern Libya, is often at odds with the Western-backed government based in Tripoli, the Government of National Accord (GNA). There are also multiple tribes competing for control of Libya’s dwindling oil wealth, as well as militant groups, including ISIS, scattered across the vast country.

According to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are 316,415 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and 567,802 total IDP returnees from 2016 to 2019. (as of October 1, 2020)


1911-1912 – Italy gains control of the area comprising modern day Libya from the Ottoman Empire.

1940-1943 – During World War II, Axis and Allied forces battle in Libya. After the Axis troops are defeated, Italy withdraws, and Libya falls under French and British control.

November 1949 – A United Nations resolution calls for the establishment of a sovereign state of Libya by January 1952.

December 24, 1951 – King Idris I proclaims the independence of Libya.

1959 – Significant oil reserves are discovered.

September 1, 1969 – A group of army officers led by Gadhafi overthrows Idris.

1977 – The General People’s Congress (GPC) replaces the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which has led the country since the 1969 coup.

1979 – Gadhafi resigns as secretary-general of the GPC but remains the de factor ruler of Libya.

August 1981 – US Navy jets shoot down two Libyan fighters in a confrontation over the Gulf of Sidra.

March 1982 – The United States imposes an oil embargo on Libya.

January 1986 – Gadhafi draws a “line of death” across the Gulf of Sidra, which he claims is Libyan territory, and warns the United States and other foreign ships not to cross it.

March 1986 – Libya fires missiles at a US aircraft flying inside the “line of death.” In retaliation, the US Navy destroys at least two Libyan patrol boats in the Gulf of Sidra.

April 1986 – In response to the Libyan sponsored bombing of a German disco frequented by US soldiers, the United States bombs targets in Libya.

December 21, 1988 – Pan Am Flight 103 explodes 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland, 38 minutes after takeoff from London. Two hundred and fifty-nine people on board the New York-bound Boeing 747 are killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

September 19, 1989 – UTA Flight 772, a French airliner, explodes over Niger. One hundred and seventy passengers and crew members are killed. In 1999, six Libyans are tried in absentia and convicted in a French court.

April 15, 1996 – The United Nations imposes sanctions on Libya over the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in Lockerbie and the 1989 Niger bombing.

April 5, 1999 – Libya hands over Lockerbie bombing suspects Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah to be tried under Scottish law in The Hague. The United Nations suspends sanctions against Libya.

January 31, 2001 – Megrahi is found guilty of the Lockerbie bombings and is sentenced to life in prison. Fhimah is acquitted.

September 2003 – UN sanctions against Libya are lifted.

December 2003 – Libya announces that it has agreed to end its program of developing weapons of mass destruction.

September 2004 – US President George W. Bush issues an executive order that ends most economic sanctions against Libya and lifts a ban on travel to Libya which had been in effect since 1981.

June 2006 – The United States removes Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

January 2008 – Libya takes a rotating seat on the UN Security Council.

August 14, 2008 – Libya and the United States sign an agreement over claims relating to injuries or deaths in the 1986 bombing of the German disco, the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and the 1989 French airliner bombing.

October 31, 2008 – The United States receives $1.5 billion from Libya, settling claims from the 1980s bombings.

January 2009 – The United States and Libya exchange ambassadors for the first time since 1973.

August 2009 – Convicted Lockerbie bomber Megrahi is released from a Scottish prison on humanitarian grounds. Megrahi, reportedly suffering from terminal cancer, returns to a hero’s welcome in Libya.

September 23, 2009 – Gadhafi addresses the UN General Assembly. In the 1.5-hour speech, he criticizes the United Nations and the Security Council and suggests that they should be moved out of New York.

May 2010 – Libya is elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council.

February 2011 – Demonstrations break out against the rule of Gadhafi in Benghazi and Tripoli. The protestors are reportedly attacked by security forces, warplanes and helicopter gunships, resulting in hundreds of casualties. These protests spread through the country, igniting the 2011 Libya Civil War.

February 22, 2011 – Gadhafi appears on television to dispel rumors that he has fled the country, vowing he will never leave Libya, and “will die as a martyr at the end.”

February 26, 2011 – The UN Security Council imposes sanctions against Libya, including an arms embargo and asset freezes. The Security Council also refers Libya to the International Criminal Court for investigation of crimes against humanity.

May 16, 2011 – The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, requests arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Gadhafi and his brother-in-law, saying the court has evidence that the three committed crimes against humanity during the Libyan civil war.

August 24, 2011 – The National Transitional Council (NTC), the rebels’ political movement, claims rebels now control 90% of the country and plans to move ministries from its base of Benghazi in the east to Tripoli. The NTC will have the primary responsibility for the restoration of law and order when the conflict is over.

October 20, 2011 – Gadhafi dies of a gunshot wound to the head after being captured by rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte, Libya.

October 23, 2011 – Libya’s interim leaders declare the nation’s freedom in Benghazi, where uprisings against Gadhafi’s regime began in February, officially ending the civil war.

October 27, 2011 – The Security Council votes unanimously to end military operations in Libya. The adopted resolution effectively cancels the NATO mission in Libya as of October 31, 2011.

October 30, 2011 – It is announced that two sites containing chemical weapons have been found in Libya. Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril says the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been notified.

October 31, 2011 – The NTC elects Abdurrahim El-Keib, an electrical engineering professor, as the acting prime minister.

November 19, 2011 – Saif al-Islam is captured after a firefight in southern Libya.

November 23, 2011 – El-Keib names 25 people to the Transitional Executive Board, Libya’s new cabinet.

December 16, 2011 – The Security Council lifts sanctions on the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Foreign Bank.

May 20, 2012 – Megrahi dies in Libya at 60 years old, the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

July 7-8, 2012 – Elections are held for the 200-seat national assembly; there are more than 3,500 candidates in the first elections in Libya in 42 years.

July 17, 2012 – Results show the National Forces Alliance, a coalition of 58 political parties, wins the most seats in the 200-seat election, 39; the Justice and Construction party, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, came in second with 17 seats.

August 8, 2012 – Libya’s NTC hands over power to the General National Congress.

September 11, 2012 – US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three US diplomatic staffers are killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Initially, the cause is alleged to be an anti-Islam video produced by an Israeli-American, but it is later determined to be a terrorist attack.

September 12, 2012 – The General National Congress names Mustafa Abushagur prime minister-elect and gives him approximately three and a half weeks to form a crisis government proposal.

October 7, 2012 – Abushagur is voted out of office with a “no confidence” 125 to 44 vote against his proposed cabinet.

October 14, 2012 – Ali Zeidan is elected as the country’s new prime minister.

October 20, 2012 – Official sources report fighting in the former Gadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid where at least 200 government forces are wounded, and 14 government and pro-government militia members are killed. Among those killed is Khamis Gadhafi, 29, the youngest son of the former leader.

February-March 2014 – Violence levels in Benghazi spike, with assassinations, kidnappings and bombings becoming near daily occurrences. While no group has claimed responsibility for the rising violence in Benghazi, residents and officials blame the violence on Islamist extremist groups.

March 11, 2014 – Libya’s parliament votes Zeidan out of office after months of political infighting. Defense Minister Abdallah al-Thinni, who is sworn in after the vote, will hold the position of premier until a replacement is picked.

April 13, 2014 – Al-Thinni resigns after an attack on himself and his family. The General National Congress must approve. Until then, al-Thinni says he will continue his work as a “caretaker.”

May 4, 2014 – The General National Congress (GNC) elects Ahmed Maiteeq as Prime Minister. However, some members of the parliament reject the appointment and ask al-Thinni to stay in place because Maiteeq’s appointment failed to reach a quorum and therefore is illegitimate.

May 18, 2014 – Operation Dignity forces storm parliament and call for the suspension of the General National Congress (GNC).

June 9, 2014 – Libya’s Supreme Court rules Maiteeq’s election as prime minister was unconstitutional. Al-Thinni remains the interim prime minister.

June 15, 2014 – Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the suspected mastermind behind the 2012 bombing of the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, is captured. In June 2018, Abu Khatallah is sentenced to 22 years in prison.

June 25, 2014 – A new parliament is elected.

July 13, 2014 – Islamist militants launch Operation Libya Dawn, in an effort to take control of the Tripoli International Airport, which has been under the control of moderate militias since the fall of Gadhafi.

July 14, 2014 – All air traffic in and out Tripoli is suspended. Also, the United Nations announces that it has evacuated its staff.

July 26, 2014 – Military and civilian personnel from the US embassy are evacuated from Tripoli.

August 4, 2014 – The first session of the new parliament, called the House of Representatives (HOR), is held in Tobruk.

September 1, 2014 – Parliament reappoints Thinni, who resigned just days before, as prime minister and asks him to form a new government.

November 6, 2014 – The Libyan supreme court rules the June elections were unconstitutional and illegal, dissolving the House of Representatives. The HOR ignores the ruling.

January 22, 2015 – Operation Dignity forces take control of the Libyan Central Bank in Benghazi.

February 15, 2015 – Islamic militant group ISIS releases a propaganda video which appears to show the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach.

February 16, 2015 – Egyptian warplanes stage airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya in retaliation.

February 20, 2015 – Three simultaneous suicide car bomb blasts kill at least 30 and injure more than 40 in Gobba, Libya. Wilayat al-Barqa, the Libyan branch of ISIS, claims responsibility for the explosions.

May 26, 2015 – While in the eastern city of Tobruk to attend Parliament, Prime Minister al-Thinni survives an attempted assassination.

December 17, 2015 – In Skhirat, Morocco, Libya’s rival warring factions sign a UN-brokered peace agreement to form a national government.

December 17, 2017 – Haftar says he no longer recognizes the UN-backed national government established by the 2015 agreement.

June 2018 – A UN report finds that over the course of two days, 215 people drowned after leaving Libya for Europe. There are between 700,000 and 1 million migrants in Libya, according to the UN IOM. Tripoli’s location at the edge of the Mediterranean makes it a popular checkpoint for those all over the continent trying to escape conflict by fleeing to Europe.

November 5, 2018 – The UN Security Council adopts a resolution that keeps the pressure on suspected human traffickers and sexual abusers in Libya, following an undercover report by CNN’s Nima Elbagir and Raja Rezak that revealed trafficking of women in Libyan camps, as the observed captives were sold to the highest bidder.

April 4, 2019 – General Haftar orders his Libyan National Army (LNA) to advance on the capital city Tripoli, the base of the country’s UN-backed government, the GNA.

April 9, 2019 – In a statement, UNICEF calls on all parties to refrain from “committing grave violations against children” — including the recruitment of children as soldiers — as it warns that more than half a million children are at “direct risk” in Libya as Haftar’s forces advance.

January 17, 2020 – UNICEF releases a statement calling for a durable peace agreement to be reached “for the sake of each and every child.” Tens of thousands of children and civilians in Libya continue to suffer “grievously” amid the violence and chaos of the country’s longstanding civil war.

December 22, 2021 – The Libya High National Elections Commission declares force majeure. The presidential election, scheduled for December 24 is postponed indefinitely due to questions regarding the list of candidates and other issues.

January 11, 2022 – Stephanie Turco Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, tells CNN that it is still possible for Libyans to cast their ballots by June, in line with the UN-brokered 2020 roadmap towards national elections. “It’s important for us to see an electoral event in this time frame.”

February 10, 2022 – Libya’s eastern-based parliament speaker, Aguila Saleh, declares Fathi Bashagha prime minister-designate, to replace current interim premier Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, according to a UNSMIL statement. Al-Dbeibah refuses to recognize the vote. Turco Williams meets with both four days later and stresses the importance of Libyan stability and unity.


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