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A 29-step guide to understanding Libya's descent into total chaos

What began as a promising Arab Spring protest movement is now a violent disaster, and the oil-rich nation is rapidly becoming a failed state.

Libya 28 gunmanEnlarge
A masked Libyan gunman stands on a street in the eastern city of Benghazi, early on July 29, 2014, as violence has hit the city, cradle of the 2011 revolution, where weekend fighting between the army and Islamists killed 28 people, mostly soldiers. Militiamen are also battling in the capital Tripoli to flush out fellow former rebels from the hill town of Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who have controlled the airport for three years. AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH DOMA (Photo credit should read ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images) (ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Libya is a complete disaster right now. And it could get even worse.

Just a couple of years ago, things looked promising for the oil-rich nation. The pro-democracy spirit of the Arab Spring had arrived in Tripoli by way of Tunisia and Egypt's Tahrir Square. Protests led to an armed rebellion against Libya's autocratic ruler, Muammar Gaddafi. Conflict between opposition fighters and loyalists quickly turned into a civil war. Western military power helped defeat pro-Gaddafi forces, and Gaddafi was captured and killed on Oct. 20, 2011. Libya's new National Transition Council declared the country liberated on Oct. 23, 2011.

Then it all went to hell.

Armed militias had joined together to defeat Gaddafi, but his death left a power vacuum behind, oil wealth up for grabs, and a new nation whose political, religious, and ideological future was yet to be determined. Those things were more than enough to set armed groups against one another. And their fight over the future of Libya has made the future look very uncertain and potentially very dark. 

With the security so bad in Libya, the United Nations and Red Cross have suspended operations there. The United States and other world powers have evacuated their embassies. The Tripoli International Airport has been nearly destroyed by rebel fighting. A new civil war is on the horizon.

So how did we get here? Here's your 29-step guide to Libya's descent into chaos.

 

1. Dec. 17, 2010: Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolates after a municipal official confiscates his goods. Anti-government protests erupt in Tunisia and quickly spread to neighboring countries, beginning what we now call the "Arab Spring."


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2. Feb. 17, 2011: Massive anti-government protests hit Libya one day after Libyan security forces kill two protesters during a demonstration near Benghazi. The Libyan Arab Spring rapidly turns into the Libyan Civil War.


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3. Feb. 22, 2011: After approximately 300 demonstrators are killed in clashes with Libyan security forces, President Muammar Gaddafi delivers the first of several defiant TV rants. He promises to "die a martyr."


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4. Feb. 26, 2011: UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions on Libya and to investigate Gaddafi for war crimes as government loyalists battle opposition fighters.


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5. Mar. 19, 2011: US and European allies launch air strikes against Libyan government forces and enforce a no-fly zone passed two days earlier by the UN. Rebel fighters and loyalist troops continue to battle on the ground.


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6. Aug. 22, 2011: Rebel fighters capture Tripoli and occupy Green Square in the center of the capital city. They rename it "Martyrs' Square" for those who died during the uprising against Gaddafi. 


(Reuters)

 

7. Oct. 20, 2011: Gaddafi is found hiding in a drainpipe, where he is captured and killed. The recently organized National Transition Council (NTC) declares Libya liberated three days later.


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8. July 7, 2012: Libyans vote to elect members of the new General National Congress (GNC), but sectarian divisions and competition among multiple armed militias threaten the new democratic nation.


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9. Sept. 11, 2012: Four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, are killed during an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi by more than 100 armed men believed to members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia. Benghazi becomes a political football in the US. 


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10. Oct. 7, 2012: Prime Minister-elect Mistafa Abu Shagur is dismissed when the GNC passes a vote of no confidence against him. Ali Zeidan replaces him as PM. 


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11. Nov. 20, 2012: Benghazi's police chief is shot to death outside his home.


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12. Dec. 16, 2012: Persistent violence and lawlessness leads the GNC to declare much of the south a "closed military zone" and to order the temporary closure of borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria.


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13. May 5, 2013: Armed groups surround Libya's justice and foreign ministries. Under pressure, the GNC passes a law banning anyone who had served in a senior position under Gaddafi from holding a government position.


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14. July 2013: Armed protesters from the Al-Agharba tribe, demanding regional autonomy in eastern Libya, seize control of key oil terminals and begin an export blockade that will cost Libya billions of dollars in oil revenue.


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15. Oct. 5, 2013: US Special Operations Forces in Tripoli snatch Abu Anas al-Liby, a member of Al Qaeda accused of playing a role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Libyans and their government are furious.


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16. Oct. 10: 2013: Armed gunmen, claiming to be members of a state-affiliated militia in charge of parliamentary security, "arrest" and detain Prime Minister Ali Zeidan for six hours in the Corinthia Hotel before releasing him.


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17. Dec. 22, 2013: A suicide bomber, likely from the same militant group responsible for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, detonates an explosive-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near Benghazi. Thirteen people are killed in what is the first suicide attack in Libya since the fall of Gaddafi.


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18. Jan. 12, 2014: Libya's deputy industry minister is assassinated. The BBC reports that 1,700 separate armed militias are operating in Libya.


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19. March 17, 2014: US Navy SEALs board and seize control of a rebel-manned oil tanker, the Morning Glory. The rebels blockading oil exports since July 2013 had decided to begin exporting oil on their own, independent of the Libyan state, which proved powerless to stop them. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan ousted as a result.


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20. April 13, 2014: Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani resigns less than a month into his new job after an armed attack on his family. He ends up remaining in office.


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21. May 16, 2014: Retired general Khalifa Haftar launches a rogue military operation, "Operation Dignity," against militants in Benghazi. His prime targest are Islamist militant groups. Military units, including ones from the special forces and the air force, join him.


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22. May 18, 2014: With many Libyans frustrated by the interim government's ineffective rule and concerned about the dominance of Islamist parties, Haftar's militiamen storm parliament, declaring it suspended. Two days later, the GNC announces new elections to take place in late June. 


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23. May 27, 2014: US State Department recommends that American citizens leave Libya "immediately." The USS Bataan, carrying 1,000 Marines, moves into position off the coast, in case an evacuation of Americans and diplomatic personnel becomes necessary.


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24. June 5, 2014: The International Committee of the Red Cross temporarily suspends operations in Libya after a staff member is murdered. Fighting rages on.


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25. July 13, 2014: Armed groups raid Tripoli International Airport, forcing its closure and turning it into a site of intense, sustained fighting. The UN withdraws its personnel from the country.


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26. July 23, 2014: GNC announces final results of June 25 general election and sets Aug. 4 as date for power transfer. The new House of Representatives will be located in Bengazhi, a city still torn by violence.


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27. July 26, 2014: The US closes its Libyan embassy and evacuates its staff. Fighting continues. Protesters in Tripoli demand an end to the conflict.


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28. July 27, 2014: 50 Libyans killed over night, including 36 in Benghazi, many of them civilians. In two weeks of intense fighting — the worst since 2011 — more than 150 people have been killed in Tripoli and Benghazi. 


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29. July 27, 2014: A fire in a fuel depot threatens to burn out of control near the airport. The depot, which holds 15.5 million gallons of petroleum, diesel fuel and liquid gas, went up in flames amid continued fighting and shelling. Firefighters were withdrawn and Italy is pledging to help.


(AFP/Getty Images)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/140728/29-step-guide-to-libya-chaos