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After months of evading rebel forces that had toppled his regime in August, Moammar Qaddafi died as viciously and vengefully as he ruled. Rough video footage released yesterday showed a badly beaten and bloodied man resembling Qaddafi set upon by a violent mob. Qaddafi’s death, later confirmed by Libya’s transition government, officially ends the dictator’s 42-year grip on power in Libya and ushers in an uncertain future for the North African country.
No summation of Qaddafi’s legacy would be complete without his long list of eccentricities. Whether it was his ridiculous Green Book, an illiterate pseudo-philosophical manifesto that detailed the dictator’s thoughts on everything from the model society to menstruation; or his opulent travel entourage, complete with sprawling tents in foreign capitals and female bodyguards; or his boundless megalomania, manifested in his self-claimed honorific as “King of Kings” and his own personal monthly calendar, Qaddafi enjoyed a well-earned reputation as mentally unbalanced.
Behind these personality-cult oddities was a record of real brutality. Throughout the 1980s, Qaddafi was one of the leading sponsors of international terrorism. In 1985, Qaddafi’s money paid for the Palestinian terrorist group Abu Nidal to carry out attacks on the Rome and Vienna-based ticket offices of Israeli airline El Al, in which 18 were killed and over a hundred wounded. The following year Qaddafi’s fingerprints were on the bombing of a Berlin discothèque popular with American troops stationed in Germany. Two soldiers were killed and 229 wounded when a nail-packed bomb ripped through the bar, prompting Ronald Reagan to retaliate with bombing raids on Qaddafi’s stronghold in Tripoli. Despite the warning to the man Reagan dubbed a “mad dog,” Qaddafi remained a steadfast patron of terror. The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 270 people were killed, would later be traced to the Libyan dictator.
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