Socialist Worker

Timeline of the Libyan uprising: from Tunisia to Tripoli

Issue No. 2266

  • 16 January Colonel Gaddafi is terrified by the fall of Abidine Ben Ali in neighbouring Tunisia. He makes a long statement condemning Tunisian revolutionaries.
  • 15 February Libya joins the wider revolutionary wave spreading across the Middle East and North Africa as protests begin in Benghazi, in the east. They are met with a brutal backlash from Gaddafi’s regime.
  • 17 February Libya’s first “day of rage”, with demonstrations across four cities. Troops kill an estimated 230 people.
  • 18 February Armed resistance begins and Gaddafi’s forces are quickly thrown on the defensive. In the following days revolutionary councils emerge in the main cities. They organise food distribution as well as security.
  • 21 February Two fighter pilots land in Malta after they refuse to fire on protesters. Mass defections hit Gaddafi’s forces. Burnt-out tanks are found with soldiers handcuffed to them. By the end of the month rebels control all major cities except Tripoli—where there are mass demonstrations.
  • 3 March Barack Obama calls for Gaddafi to go. Three days later British “diplomats” land in the country unannounced. They are asked to leave by the rebels.
  • 5 March Interim Transitional National Council (TNC) launched to coordinate revolutionary forces.
  • 6 March Gaddafi launches a savage counter-offensive. His forces rapidly push rebels back towards Benghazi.
  • 8 March David Cameron and Obama draw up a “full spectrum” of military options for Libya. The US and Germany speak against a no‑fly zone at the UN, but France’s Nicolas Sarkozy continues to call for airstrikes.
  • 14 March A section of the TNC calls for Western powers to assassinate Gaddafi.
  • 15 March Gaddafi’s forces begin assault on Benghazi.
  • 17 March UN Security Council votes by ten to five in favour of employing “any means necessary” to “protect civilians”.
  • 19 March UN bombing begins—the biggest assault since Iraq in 2003. War settles into a stalemate. Rebels now depend on Nato air power.
  • 17 July US government recognises TNC as the official government of Libya.
  • 27 July British government recognises TNC.
  • 22 August The endgame begins as the rebels push into Tripoli.


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