"Libya" comes from 'Put' (or Phut) and 'Lubim' which were neighbors of ancient Egypt and Cush (Genesis 10:6). The first inhabitants of Libya were Berber tribes. In the 7th century B.C., Phoenicians colonized the eastern section of Libya, called Cyrenaica, and Greeks colonized the western portion, called Tripolitania. Tripolitania became part of the Roman Empire from 46 B.C. to 436 A.D., until it was sacked by the Vandals. Arab forces invaded Cyrenaica in 642. Both Tripolitania and Cyrenaica became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.

Tripolitania was an outpost for the Barbary pirates who raided Mediterranean merchant ships or required them to pay tribute. In 1801, the pasha of Tripoli raised the price of tribute, which led to the Tripolitan war with the United States. U.S. ships no longer had to pay tribute to Tripoli when the peace treaty was signed on June 4, 1805.

Italian troops occupied Tripoli following an outbreak of hostilities between Italy and Turkey in 1911. Libyans continued to fight the Italians until 1914. Italy formally united Tripolitania and Cyrenaica in 1934 as the colony of Libya.

Libya was the scene of much desert fighting during World War II. After the fall of Tripoli on January 23, 1943, it came under Allied administration. In 1949, the UN voted that Libya should become independent, and in 1951 it became the United Kingdom of Libya. Oil was discovered in Libya in 1958.

On September 1, 1969, Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi deposed the king and revolutionized the country, making it a pro-Arabic, anti-Western, Islamic republic with socialist leanings. Gaddafi aligned himself with dictators, such as Uganda's Idi Amin, and fostered anti-Western terrorism.

On August 19, 1981, U.S. Navy F-14s shot down two Soviet-made SU-22s of the Libyan air force that attacked them in air space above the Gulf of Sidra. On March 24, 1986, U.S. and Libyan forces skirmished in the Gulf of Sidra, and two Libyan patrol boats were sunk.

On December 21, 1988, a Boeing 747 exploded in flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, the result of a terrorist bomb, killing all 259 people aboard. Two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted in the Lockerbie bombing, but Gaddafi refused to hand them over, leading to UN-approved trade and air traffic embargoes in 1992. In 1999, Libya finally surrendered the two men, who were tried in the Netherlands in 2000-2001. One defendant was found guilty of mass murder and the other was declared innocent. The UN suspended sanctions, but they were not formally removed until September 2003, when Libya admitted its guilt in the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims' families.

Gaddafi surprised the world in December 2003 by announcing he would give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and submit to full UN weapons inspections. After inspections at four secret sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Libya's progress on a nuclear bomb had been in the very nascent stages.

In December 2006, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor working in Libya were sentenced to death after being convicted of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with AIDS. In July 2007, Libya's Supreme Court upheld the death sentences. However, the country's High Judicial Council commuted the sentences. On the same day as the commutations, the government agreed to pay $1 million to the families of each of the 460 victims.

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, was freed from prison on compassionate grounds by Scotland in August 2009. He returned to Libya with a hero's welcome, which provoked outrage from the victims' families.

Protests in Libya were part of anti-government demonstrations that gripped several countries in the Middle East in 2011. Protesters took to the streets on February 16 in Benghazi demanding that Gaddafi step down. The next day, declared the Day of Rage, saw demonstrations spread throughout Libya. Security forces began firing on protesters. Several government officials and diplomats defected, and members of the military joined the ranks of the opposition as government attacks on civilians grew increasingly brutal. Gaddafi refused to resign and enlisted the help of mercenaries as defections by troops increased.

On February 27, the UN Security Council voted to impose sanctions on Gaddafi and several of his close advisers. The Security Council also requested that the International Criminal Court investigate reports of "widespread and systemic attacks" on citizens. By February 28, rebels had taken control of Benghazi and Misurata and were closing in on Tripoli. The rebels organized a military and formed an executive committee, the Transitional National Council (TNC).

On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council approved a resolution that authorized military action against Libya. Two days later, Britain and France led a military action against Libya. Gaddafi railed against the intervention, calling it "a colonial crusader aggression that may ignite another large-scale crusader war." In early April, two of Gaddafi's sons, Seif and Saadi, put forth a proposal in which their father would step down and allow the country to transition toward a constitutional democracy. The rebels rejected the offer.

In June, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son, Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence chief, Abdulla al-Senussi. They were charged with rimes against humanity for the attacks on civilians.

In July, the U.S. and 30 other countries officially recognized the Transitional National Council as Libya's government and gave the council access to $30 billion in Libyan assets that had been frozen. The council's military leader, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, was killed by fellow rebel soldiers.

In August 2011, rebel fighters seized Zawiyah and gained control of the city's oil refinery. Then, rebel forces advanced into Tripoli. On August 21, residents in Tripoli took to the streets to celebrate the end of Gaddafi's 42 years in power. On August 23, rebels seized Gaddafi's compound, effectively ending Gaddafi's rule of Libya. Gaddafi and his family had fled. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the TNC and Gaddafi's former justice minister, became Libya's leader and the rebels began transferring their administration from Benghazi to Tripoli.

In October 2011, rebels advanced on Surt, Gaddafi's hometown, and captured Bani Walid. On October 20, 2011, the interim government of Libya announced that Gaddafi had been killed by rebel troops in Surt.

In July 2012, Libyans voted in its first national election since Col. Muammar Qaddafi was ousted. The National Forces Alliance, led by Mahmoud Jibril, prevailed over Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. In August, the Transitional National Council handed power to the newly elected General National Congress. Mohammed Magarief, head of the National Front Party, was elected chairman of the Congress. In September, Mustafa Abu Shagur prevailed over Jibril in the second round of voting to become prime minister.

On September 11, 2012, militants fired on the American consulate in Benghazi, killing U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others. U.S. officials initially said the attack was in response to a video criticizing Islam, but later said they believed that the militant group Ansar al-Shariah orchestrated the attack. The Obama administration was criticized for the lack of security at the consulate that left diplomats vulnerable.

In October, Parliament fired prime minister Mustafa Abu Shagur. Ali Zeidan was elected prime minister. Zeidan beat a candidate favored by the Justice and Construction party, which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The National Congress passed a law in May 2013 that bans anyone from taking public office who served in a senior position between 1969 and 2011.

In June 2013, the National Congress elected Nouri Abusahmen, a Berber, as chairman. Berbers suffered discrimination under Gaddafi. In August, members of the Berber community stormed the parliament building in Tripoli.

Oil exports plunged in September 2013. Strikes were blamed for the oil reduction. Prime Minister Zeidan came under fire for failing to reign in the militias or stem tribal fighting.

U.S. commandos captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, an al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Anas al-Libi, in early October 2013. Prime Minister Zeidan denied he had prior knowledge of the raid. Days later, members of a militia kidnapped Zeidan. He was held for several hours before being released.

In March 2014, the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, a militia led by Ibrahim Jathran, loaded a tanker with 234,000 barrels of crude oil to sell on the black market. Prime minister Zeidan said the move was an act of piracy and threatened to blow up the ship. Parliament voted to dismiss Zeidan, citing his inability to control the militia. U.S. Navy SEALS took control of the ship.

In May 2014, Libya's transitional Parliament elected Ahmed Maitiq, a prominent businessman from Misurata, as prime minister.

On June 15, 2014, U.S. special operations troops captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, believed to be the mastermind of the U.S. consulate attack.

© 2014 World Ministries International