Libya uprising, one year on: a timeline of how Gaddafi was toppled

By Tom Phillips and Francis Whittaker, MSN ISMAIL ZITOUNY/Reuters
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Libya prepares to mark uprising's anniversary

17 February marks the one year anniversary of Libya's 'day of rage' - the protests inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings that eventually led to a protracted and brutal civil war, western military intervention and the death of Colonel Gaddafi. As Libyans prepare to mark the anniversary (above), we look back at how the events of the Libyan revolution unfolded.

REUTERS/Ho New
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22 December 2010

The wave of protests against regimes across the Arab world was triggered by the actions of a Tunisian vegetable seller. Unemployed graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself after police seized the cart he was selling vegetables from - becoming a symbol of people's anger over unemployment and poverty. Bouazizi (seen here in hospital) later died from his injuries on 4 January.

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14 January 2011

Ten days after Bouazizi's death, Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali became the first leader to fall - resigning and fleeing to Saudi Arabia following days of violent clashes between Tunisian protestors and security forces, with protestors using mobile communications and social media to help spread word of their actions.

REUTERS/Amr Dalsh
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11 February

In the most significant moment of what had become known as the "Arab Spring", Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned following weeks of mass protests in Egypt, centered around Cairo's Tahrir Square. Mubarak had attempted to cling onto power, firing his cabinet and attempting to offer the protestors concessions - but the occupation of Tahrir Square continued until he quit.

REUTERS/Jim Tanner
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15 - 20 February

The uprisings spread to Libya, where the country's second city of Benghazi saw the first protests against the autocratic regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a prominent human rights activist, Fathi Terbil, was arrested. A "day of rage" on 17 February saw thousands of residents come out onto the streets - and despite a violent crackdown by security forces that leave tens dead, by 20 February the city was reportedly in the hands of anti-government forces.

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22 February

As the uprising spread to other cities across Libya and his military is hit by defections, Colonel Gaddafi appeared on Libyan state TV to give a long rambling speech attacking the protestors as "greasy rats" and vowing that he would "die a martyr" rather than leave the country. Over 300 people were believed to have died when Gaddafi's forces hit back at the rebels, and in his speech Gaddafi threatened to escalate the conflict.

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20 March

With Gaddafi's military - especially its air force - striking hard at rebel fighters and civilians alike, the UN authorized a group of western allies led by the US, UK and France to impose a no-fly zone above the country. On 20 March, the allies launched a massive campaign of bombing and missile strikes against Gaddafi's forces, halting the Libyan military's advance on Benghazi and giving western planes the ability to fly freely over the country.

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30 March

The Gaddafi government suffered its most high-profile defection, as foreign minister Moussa Koussa fled the country and sought refuge in Britain. Koussa left his position after travelling on diplomatic business to Tunisia, from where he flew to the UK, landing in the middle of the night at Farnborough airport. A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said the Koussa was "no longer willing" to represent the Libyan regime.

Getty Images/Chris Hondros
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20 April

As the violence intensified, two award winning photographers were killed as they covered the fighting in the town of Misrata. Sundance-winning documentary maker Chris Hetherington and Pulitzer finalist Chris Hondros died while travelling with rebel forces, when they were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade launched by government forces. This is one of the last images taken by Hondros, on the day he died, of a rebel soldier rolling a burning tyre into a room containing pro-government troops.

REUTERS
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30 April

The Libyan government claimed that a Nato missile strike on the house of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, one of Col. Gaddafi's sons, had killed both Saif al-Arab and three of Gaddafi's grandchildren. Calling the strike "a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country", they added that Col. Gaddafi had been in the house himself, but had escaped. It was not possible to confirm the deaths, and Nato denied targeting individuals, claiming they were only targeting military installations.

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14 July

The fighting continued for months, with Gaddafi refusing to step down as more international bodies recognized the rebels' National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. Gaddafi vowed to fight on in a speech carried on Libyan television, as his government put on shows of strength, organizing rallies in support of him - such as this one in the town of Al-Ajaylat, 50 miles west of Tripoli.

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9 August

The Libyan government accused the western allies of killing as many as 85 civilians in an air strike on the village of Majar, south of the town of Zlitan. Nato admitted that they had carried out bombing in the area, but insisted they had only struck military targets.

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18 August

The battle for Libya took what might be a decisive turn, as rebel forces advanced on Tripoli. They seized control of an oil refinery in the city of Zawiyah and took the coastal town of Sabratha, 40 miles west of the capital - a crucial point on the main highway from Tripoli to Tunisia, cutting off Gaddafi's forces from their main source of supplies.

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21 August

Rebel forces continued to close in on Libya's capital, taking control of the town on Maia just 15 miles to the west of Tripoli - where this anti-Gaddafi fighter planted the rebel Libyan flag in the ground to mark their advance.

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22 August

The Gaddafi regime appeared to be crumbling as rebel forces streamed into Tripoli. Just as Tahrir Square became a symbol of the Egyptian uprising, Tripoli's Green Square (quickly renamed Martyrs' Square) became the focus, with members of the anti-Gaddafi movement celebrating, hugging and destroying images of Gaddafi. While the rebels took control of much of the city, some parts remained in government control.

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23 August

But while the rebel National Transition Council (NTC) took control of large parts of Tripoli, the Gaddafi regime was still fighting. An already confused situation became more confusing when Col. Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam - who was reported to have be in the custody of rebel forces - appeared on the streets of Tripoli in an armoured car, saying he wanted to "refute the lies" that he had been arrested and promising to "break the backbone of the rebels, rats and gangs".

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23 August

Later that day however, the rebels stormed the Gaddafis' compound, tearing down statues and destroying symbols of the Colonel's regime, and assuming control of the Libyan government, marking the end of Gaddafi's 42-year reign.

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8 September

But while the Gaddafi regime had fallen, the former dictator escaped capture - and pro-Gaddafi forces continued to fight in some areas of the country, largely centred around Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown. Pictured above, anti-Gaddafi forces fire a Howitzer at the artillery line in Om El Khanfousa, 57 miles east of Sirte.

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17 October

As more and more Gaddafi strongholds fell, the fighting moved to the streets of Sirte, the pro-Gaddafi forces' final stronghold, where a long and brutal urban battle played out for weeks.

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19 October

Finally, the battle for Sirte came to an end, as pro-Gaddafi forces fled the city - leaving behind a city largely in ruins after weeks of fighting.

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20 October

And on 20 October, officials in the National Transitional Council said that they had captured Colonel Gaddafi as he tried to flee Sirte. While Gaddafi was captured alive, he was soon killed, brutally, by his captors - with the death being filmed by several onlookers, and quickly appearing online. This picture, taken from one of those videos, shows a badly injured Gaddafi as he is manhandled by NTC forces.

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20 October

As news of Colonel Gaddafi's death spread, it sparked scenes of wild celebration in Tripoli, with many supporters of the anti-Gaddafi forces celebrating in Martyr's Square.

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The aftermath

In the months following the death of Gaddafi, the military-led National Transitional Council - led by Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, above - assumed control of the country, and started making preparations for elections.

But the transition to democracy has been marred by repeated outbreaks of violence, with clashes between rival groups of well-armed militias resulting in numerous deaths. The treatmeant of those who fought on the side of the Gaddafi regim has also provoked concern - thousands were detained without trial, and many tortured, although the NTC has pledged to end this and re-integrate former Gaddafi loyalists back into the security forces.