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Libya’s century-old tryst with destiny ends, liberation is here finally

The National Transitional Council of Tripoli will proclaim the formal liberation of Libya on Sunday, three days after the killing of its fleeing dictator Muammar Gadhafi in his hometown Sirte.

The NTC, currently located in the eastern city of Bnghazi, announced the liberation at 5 pm in the evening, as the dead body of Gadhafi lay in a cold storage covered entirely with a cloth, except the face. Onlookers were allowed to take a last glimpse at their leader who ruled with an iron hand for 42 years.

Confirming the dictator’s end, US President Barack Obama said Saturday, “In Libya, the death of Muammar Al Qathafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do.”

The liberation comes almost after a tumultous century that pushed the desert nation into the hands of invaders and Europeans. Starting from Italy’s capture at the beginning of the 20th century, Libya passed into the hands of the Allies after Wrold War two. The divided land between the French and the British finally became independent in 1951 under King Idris al-Sanusi.

Two decades later, the oil-rich country saw King Idris deposed in military coup led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, defending pan-Arab sentiments and nationalising the oil industry from the American and European companies.

The real confrontation with the US began in 1981 when American planes shot down Libyan aircraft the Gulf of Sirte, claimed by Libya as its territorial waters. The 1986 US bombing of Gadhafi’s palace and other Libyan military installations killed more than 100 people in Tripoli and Benghazi, including Gadhafi’s adopted daughter.

US defended the air raids saying Libya was behind the killing of its marines at a Berlin disco. The real test to US-Libyan confrontation came in 1988 when Libya was alleged for the killing of a PanAm airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Tripoli was asked to hand over the suspects and its refusal led to UN sanction in 1992.

A silverline in Libya’s global inclusion came in 1999 when Tripoli handed over the two suspects for trial in the Netehrlands under Scottish law. Soon the UK and France embraced Gadhafi and he began to make frequent trips to European capitals.

But what he achieved in terms of global accommodation proved futile back home and the insurgency was reaching its peak with peole unhappy over the hingh-handed administration in the hands of his coterie and family members. The rising prices and unemployment even resulted in the killing of scores of immigrants in September 2000 in the west of Libya.

Meanwhile, the Lockerbie trial sentenced one suspect Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi to life term in 2001 but released the other who was found not guilty. But no sooner did the sole irritant in Libya’s global reputation subsided, another equally apprehensive trial began to rock its system of justice.

In 2004, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death, accusing them of deliberately infecting some 400 children with HIV. The long-drawn trial for over five years pitted Tripoli against the European countries. Tripoli demanded huge compensation to free them and the case continued till 2007. But it left the Europeans convinced that the man’s twisting tactics were going beyond the levels of toleration and the UK had to free the sole suspect who was convicted on health grounds. Apparently, Gadhafi threatened to cut off trade ties with UK in case the suspect dies in a Scottish prison.

When the Arab Spring was proving successful in the neighbourhood, Libyans, sore with the dictator’s arrest of a human rights activist in February 2011, went on rampage and the unrest began to spread to other cities. Since the United States refused to solely get involved in the civilian strife, NATO took over the responsibility to remove Gadhafi and restore democracy in the country. Though the success looked remote in June and July with the rebels forced back, NATO raised the level of attacks and soon the country saw the so-called liberation.

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