APRIL 2002


Libya Time Line


7th-5th Cent. B.C.  Greeks settle in Cyrene and four other cities in Cyrenaica.

Before 5th Cent. B.C.  Phoenicians establish commercial settlements in Tripolitania.

c. 1000 B.C.          Garamentes tribe gains control of Fezzan.

525 B.C.- A.D. 642    Tripolitania and Cyrenaica ruled by various rulers: Persians, Alexander the                                     Great, Ptolemies, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines.

A.D.  395              Roman Empire partitioned: Tripolitania attached to west; Cyrenaica to east.

Romans had controlled the two regions for approximately 500 years.

5th Cent.               Vandals dominate North Africa.

533                       Byzantine General Belasarius recaptures Tripolitania.

632                                                           Death of Muhammad.



642                                                           Amr ibn al-As conquers Cyrenaica.


649                                                           Amr ibn al-As conquers Tripolitania.

650                                                           Uqba ibn Nafi conquers Fezzan.


10th-16th Cent.      Tripolitania and Cyrenaica suffer from constant internal strife and are controlled by various Muslim and Christian rulers: Fatamids, Berber Zirids, Normans, Almohads, Mamluks, Hapsburg Spain, and Knights of St. John Malta.  Pirating becomes popular.


16th Cent.              Ottomans gain control of all North Africa except Morocco; sultan is represented by a pasha in Tripoli.


17th Cent.              Tripoli lapses into military anarchy.

1711                      Ahmad Karamanli, a Turkish-Arab cavalry officer (khouloughlie--“sons of servants”), establishes a semi-independent dynasty in Tripoli; later gains control of Cyrenaica.


1795                      The United States makes one-time tribute payment to the pasha.

1801                      Pres. Jefferson rejects Pasha Yusuf ibn-Ali Karamanli’s demand for annual                                    tribute; the pasha declares war on the United States.

1801-1805             The Tripolitan War.

10 June 1805         The war ends when the two sides conclude a treaty of “peace and friendship.”

1835                      The Ottomans reassert direct control over the country, creating a single province (vilayet) under an Ottoman governor-general (wali).  (In 1879, Cyrenaica becomes a separate vilayet.)

1843                                                      Muhammad ibn Ali as-Sanusi, a marabout and scholar from Algeria, founds  the

first of many Sanusi lodges in Cyrenaica.  He becomes known as the Grand Sanusi.  The Sanusis combined Sufism with orthodox Islam.

1911                      The Ottomans refuse an Italian ultimatum that it allow Italy to occupy the                                      country to protect its growing interests.  Rome declares war.

1911-12                 The Italo-Turkish War; Enver Pasha and Mustapha Kemal organize local resistance.

1912                      The Treaty of Lausanne grants independence to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica;

Italy promptly annexes the two provinces.

1914                      Italy enters World War I on the side of the Allies; the Sanusi leader Ahmad ash-Sharif as-Sanusi sides with the Central Powers.

1914-17                 First Italo-Sanusi War.

1916                      Ash-Sharif leads a disastrous invasion of Egypt; turns leadership over to the                                   pro-British Muhammad Idris as-Sanusi.

1917                      Truce between Idris and Allies.

1922-31                 Italo-Sanusi War.  Italians under Mussolini conduct brutal pacification                                             campaign over entire country.

1931                      Italians complete pacification of Libya with defeat of Shaykh Umar al-                                 Mukhtar at al-Kufrah Oasis.

1934                      Mussolini formally establishes colony of Libya.

June 1940              Italy enters World War II on the side of the Axis.  Idris declares his support                                    for the Allies.

1942                      Qaddafi born in Sirte.

February 1943        Libya liberated from Axis.  British and French set up military governments                                     in Libya.

November 1949     U.N. passes resolution calling for a sovereign independent Libya by January                                   1952.

October 1951         Constitution is adopted; federal system with constitutional monarch is                                            established.

24 December 1951 King Idris I announces the independence of the United Kingdom of Libya.

1953-54                 Base agreements negotiated with Britain and the United States.

October 1956         Suez Crisis.

June 1959              Esso discovers a major oil field in Cyrenaica.

June 1967              Six-Day War.

1 September 1969  The Free Officers Movement overthrows the monarchy.  The Revolutionary

Command Council under the de facto leadership of Capt. Muammar al-                                         Qaddafi declares the Libyan Arab Republic and assumes supreme governing                                   authority.  The RCC quickly transforms Libya from a conservative monarchy                                to a radical republic.

1970                      U.S. and Britain evacuate Libyan bases; Qaddafi negotiates first arms deal                                     with Soviet Union.

1970-73                 Qaddafi formulates his revolutionary ideology.

1971                      Qaddafi demands and receives huge increase in the amount foreign oil                                   Qaddafi announces the merger of Egypt, Syria, and Libya: The Federation of                        Arab Republics.  This is the first of several Libyan-led merger attempts.

1973                      Qaddafi announces the start of the Libyan Cultural Revolution; ideology is                                     promulgated in a series of publications called The Green Book.

October 1973         The Yom Kippur War; Qaddafi declares that the Gulf of Sidra is sovereign                                     Libyan territory.

1974                      Libya gains controlling interest in all foreign oil companies.

11 February 1974   U.S. repudiates Qaddafi’s claim over the Gulf of Sidra.

2 March 1977        The General People’s Congress approves the Declaration of the Establishment                              of the People’s Authority and proclaimed the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab                                  Jamahiriyah.

July 1977               Egyptian-Libyan border war.

March 1979           The GPC announces that the masses are fully vested with power.  Qaddafi                                    abdicates all official positions and becomes the “Leader of the Revolution.”

1977-79                 Sadat’s peace initiative infuriates Qaddafi who becomes a leader of the                                          Steadfastness and Confrontation Front, an organization of radical Arab states                                  opposed to any accommodation with Israel.

2 December 1979   U.S. Embassy in Tripoli is attacked and burned by Libyan mob.

May 1980              Carter Administration closes U.S. mission in Libya and expels four Libyan                                     diplomats from U.S.

1980-82                 Qaddafi’s first intervention in Chad.

January 1981         Reagan becomes president; he orders Pentagon to plan major naval exercises                                  for the Gulf of Sidra.

May 1981              U.S. closes Libyan People’s Bureau (embassy) in Washington.

19 August 1981      The Gulf of Sidra incident.  Two Navy F-14 Tomcats shoot down two                                          Libyan Su-22 Fitter Js after one of them fired a missile at the American                                          planes.  Qaddafi vows retaliation.

November 1981     Reports reach the Reagan Administration that Qaddafi has dispatched “hit                                      squads” to assassinate Reagan and other high ranking Administration officials.

Nov.1981-Mar.1982         Reagan Administration initiates a number of military, diplomatic, and                                    economic measures to deal with the Libyan threat.

December 1981      U.S. citizens ordered out of Libya.

March 1982           U.S. places an embargo on the importation of Libyan oil and export of high                                    technology to Libya.

February 1983        The U.S., Egypt, and Sudan foil a Libyan plot to overthrow the Sudanese                                      government.

1983-84                 Qaddafi’s second intervention in Chad.

1983-85                 Wave of Middle Eastern terrorism directed at the U.S.: bombing of U.S.                                        embassy in Beirut; bombing of Marine Barracks in Beirut; bombing of U.S.                                    embassy in Kuwait; bombing of U.S. embassy annex in Beirut; highjacking                                    of Kuwaiti airliner to Iran; highjacking of TWA 847; Achille Lauro;                                               highjacking of EgyptAir 648; and Rome and Vienna airport attacks.

1984                      Libyan plane bombs Khartoum; British police officer shot and killed outside                                   Libyan People’s Bureau in London; Libyan mining of Gulf of Suez; Soviets                                   gain greater access to Libyan bases.

7 January 1986       Reagan announces strict economic sanctions against Libya: all travel and                                        commercial transactions between the two countries are banned.

Reagan orders naval demonstrations for the Gulf of Sidra and contingency                                     strike planning.

26-30 January 1986          Operation Attain Document I (Operations in Vicinity of Libya I)

12-15 February 1986        Operation Attain Document II (OVL II)

24-27 March 1986            Operation Attain Document III (OVL III)

24-25 March 1986            Operation Prairie Fire: Libya fires at least six SAMs at U.S. naval task force;  U.S. responds by putting missile battery out of action, sinking two Libya naval vessels, and badly damaging a third vessel.

Qaddafi orders terrorist attacks against the U.S.

5 April 1986           Libyan agents detonate bomb in La Belle Disco in West Berlin; kills two U.S.                                 soldiers and Turkish woman.

U.S. and British intelligence intercept Libyan cables discussing this operation.

7 April 1986           Reagan orders air strike against Libya “in principle.”  Planning proceeds at                                     furious pace.

14-15 April 1986    Operation El Dorado Canyon: Air Force F-111F bomb targets in Tripoli and                                   Navy A-6Es bomb targets in and around Benghazi.

May 1986              G-7 leaders issue Tokyo Communique’--a strong, united declaration against                                   international terrorism.

1987                      French-backed Chadian government forces rout Libyan-backed Chadian rebel                                forces.

1988                      Reagan Administration states it has evidence Qaddafi is building a chemical                                    weapons plant.

1989                      Two U.S. Navy F-14s shoot down two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers near Tobruk.

1991                      U.S. and Britain charge two Libyan government employees for their role in                                    the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

France issues arrest warrants for four Libyan officials for their role in the                                       1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772 over Chad.

1992                      U.N. Security Council imposes strict sanctions on Libya for failure to hand                                     over Pan Am suspects and failure to cooperate with UTA investigation.

1997                      Five suspects go on trial in Berlin for 1986 La Belle bombing.

1998                      The International Court of Justice rules that it has jurisdiction in the Pan Am                                  103 case.  Qaddafi had offered to give up the two Pan Am 103 suspects for                                   trial at the ICJ in The Hague.

March 1999           A French court convicts four Libyans in absentia of conspiring to sabotage                                     UTA Flight 772.

5 April 1999           Following a deal negotiated by the U.N. Secretary General and other high-                                     profile intermediaries, Libya hands over the two Lockerbie suspects to                                           Scottish authorities in the Netherlands for trial in a Scottish court.  The U.N.                                  suspends sanctions against Libya.

July 1999               Britain and Libya resume diplomatic relations.

September 1999     Libya hosts African summit; Qaddafi proposes a United States of Africa.

December 1999      Qaddafi denounces terrorism; he had earlier expelled Abu Nidal organization                                   and closed down terrorist training camps.

April 2000              Qaddafi invites Israeli official to visit Libya.

3 May 2000           Lockerbie trial opens; the two suspects Abd al-Basit Ali Meghrahi and Al-                                      Amin Khalifa Fahima plead not guilty.

Summer 2000        Qaddafi negotiates the release of a dozen hostages held by a Muslim guerrilla group in the Philippines.

31 January 2001     The Scottish court in the Netherlands finds Abd al-Basit Ali Megrahi guilty and sentences him to life in prison.  The court acquits Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima.  The Bush administration states that it will neither support the permanent lifting of U.N. sanctions nor consider the resumption of normal relations until the Libyan government accepts full responsibility for the destruction of Pan Am 103 and pays damages to the families of the victims.

11 September 2001 Qaddafi condemns the terrorist attacks on the U.S. and pledges humanitarian aid to the families of the victims.  Ironically, he states that the U.S. has the right to retaliate against those responsible for the attack.

24 September 2001 President Bush orders U.S. banks to freeze assets belonging to al-Qaida and other organizations linked to Usama bin Ladin and suspected of financing terrorist operations.  One of those organizations is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Qaddafi Islamist organization.  Recognizing that he and the U.S. have a common enemy, Qaddafi orders his intelligence service to cooperate with its American counterpart.

March 2002           A Scottish court of appeals upholds the conviction of Abd al-Basit Ali Meghrahi.


Prepared by LCDR Joseph T. Stanik, USN (Ret.)