By Jay Holmes
In 1984, the UK broke off relations with Libya when a Libyan Embassy staff member gunned down London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, in front of the Libyan embassy. The British SAS was called in to storm the Libyan Embassy. US Navy 6th Fleet received an alert message about this in a code that was known to be readable by the Russians. Soviet intelligence quickly warned Libya that Steven Decatur’s friends appeared to be restless, and the Libyan Embassy wisely backed down.
Then came a very busy year, 1986. On April 5th, 1986, Libyan-controlled terrorists bombed a disco in Berlin, killing two US servicemen and a woman. Over 230 people were injured.
Subsequently, the US requested participation from its NATO allies for an April 15 raid on Libya. All allies except the UK refused to allow even overflight by US war planes.
Denied the use of bases they had paid for and manned, the US launched twelve F-111 US Air Force fighters from Lakenheath, England. The fighters had to fly an Atlantic route to Gibraltar, and then proceed to Libya without entering any other European air space.
The long flight necessitated low altitude, night-time, mid-air refueling. In the final refueling stage, one of the F-111s dropped to low, touched the water, and was badly damaged. Both crewmen died when their damaged aircraft either crash landed or was shot down by Libyan air defense missiles. The Libyans have presented multiple versions of their side of the story, and the Air Force was not able to recover the wreckage, so the details will likely never be known.
On April 14, Italian politician, Bertino Craxi, a.k.a. Il Crackhead, had warned Moammar Gadhafi of the April 15 raid before the US planes arrived. This was, perhaps, why Gadhafi was not in his palace when it was bombed. In any event, Russian ships monitoring air and sea traffic at the Straits of Gibraltar could not have failed to notice the overflight by the US F-111s.
A small number of US Navy aircraft from two 6th Fleet aircraft carriers joined in the attack. Libya’s five largest terrorist bases were destroyed by the US raid. New Soviet-made aircraft, still in crates, were destroyed. Moammar explained that the raid was a glorious victory for Libya. Not even the Libyans believed that one.
This raid helped deteriorate relations between the Soviets and their client states in North Africa. Many countries with Soviet trained and Soviet equipped air defense systems realized that they had placed their safety in the hands of highly over-rated technology.
The Kremlin, not to be mistaken for Cinderella’s castle.
Also, Libyan resistance to Uncle Momo became far louder and more active after the raid. Moammar complained bitterly to his Soviet friends. The message traffic from the Soviet embassy in Libya to Moscow Center was rumored to be one of the more hilarious dialogues in the history of espionage. The Kremlin was already unhappy at a very expensive and bloody Soviet war in Afghanistan, and Gadhafi’s tirades did not improve morale at the Kremlin.
At one point, Gadhafi allegedly demanded nuclear weapons from the Soviets. The Soviets didn’t mind African and European bloodshed, but they were not about to place their own security in the hands of Uncle Momo.
Allegations circulated that the Politburo considered replacing Uncle Momo with a more reliable client state leader, but if any such plans were discussed, they were never implemented. Libya is not Hungary or Poland, and the Soviets have no way of delivering forces to Libya to back up any “dream coups.” Momo continued making new demands on the Soviets, but he discovered that Russian bookies do not give refunds after the game is played.
Just to be clear, it was alleged by some that the Libyan air defense system built by the Soviets was manned by Soviet military personnel in conjunction with Libyan Air defense soldiers. It was also alleged that the Soviets had ordered the 1981 Libyan Air Force attack against the Navy Hawkeye. The Soviets deny this and have always denied it. Because the Soviets claim there were no Soviets at any Libyan air defense facilities in 1981, 1986, or at any other time, then, of course, no Soviets were harmed in the making of this movie. Glad we cleared that up.
After April, 1986, the history of Uncle Momo became more bizaare with each passing year. We had the infamous Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and a variety of truces and wars in Mr. Gadhafi’s neighborhood. The incidents of outrage are too numerous to even mention, but they are available from many sources online and at your local library. However, I will hit on some highlights.
From 1986 to the present, Gadhafi has dealt with multiple assassination attempts and attempted coups. One of the results is that the frequent purges of military officers have left the Libyan military with poor leadership capabilities. These purges are having a major impact on Moammar and his supporters this month.
Moammar started off 1987 with the execution of six Libyan military officers and two civilians for plotting a coup against him.
Also in 1987, Gadhafi sponsored a coup in Berkina Faso, a small country located in west Africa. It became his west African regional arms shipment hub. Moammar then expanded his cross border incursions into Chad and invaded his neighbor. France and the US backed Chad and evicted Moammar from most of Chad.
In December, 1987, Libya announced a massive water tunnel project to transport water from Tunisia to Libya. The project would supposedly involve over two thousand miles of underground pipeline. Libya’s neighbors were not happy about this so eventually Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria came to a regional water agreement to address the critical need for water in the area.
Never forget the importance of water in Libya and its surrounding countries. Momo never forgets this, and his various water projects in Libya have been an important factor in keeping him in power. In Libya, a little water can purchase a lot of loyalty.
In December of 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland when a bomb planted by a Libyan agent detonated in the cargo hold of the 747. All 259 passengers and crew members died. Falling debris killed eleven people on the ground.
Lockerbie, Scotland terror scene
In 1989, Tomcats shot down two Libyan Mig-23 Flogger-E fighters attempting to attack the US 6th Fleet. The Libyan Floggers did not damage any US ships or aircraft before they were shot down, even though they were expensively modified with the intent of assuring success in an attack against the US fleet. Reports indicated they were outfitted with upgraded engines, improved radar, and improved weapons systems. Gadhafi was apparently deeply discouraged by their failure.
In September, 1989, the Libyans planted a bomb on a French DC-10. 170 passengers were killed.
On November 14, 1990, both the U.S. and British governments announced indictments against two Libyan intelligence officials for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
In 1993, a coup attempt by some of Moammar’s more powerful military supporters failed. Because the plotters included members of his own, traditionally loyal people, that attempt disturbed him more than any previous attempts.
In 1995, an Islamic militant group in Libya announced its intention to take over Libya. An unanticipated effect of that was that some of his less ardent supporters drew closer to him. Many educated Libyans were more frightened of the Islamic group than they were of him, worried that the fundamentalists would be far less pleasant to live under.
1996 was another exciting year for Uncle Momo. In February, another assassination attempt on him failed, but several bystanders were killed. Several years later the UK was blamed for the attempt but they denied it.
In March, 1996, Moammar had to deploy several thousand troops to northwest Libya to smother an uprising. Then, Uncle Momo, escorted by his “girlfriend bodyguards,” visited Cairo, Egypt for 5 days to lecture Egypt on methods of good government. Yes, this really happened.
In June, 1996, 1200 people were killed in a fight at Abu Salim prison between the Libyan military and forces of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Also that month, there was a soccer match in Tripoli between Gadhafi’s son’s team and some unfortunate soccer players. When the fans booed little Gadhafi’s team, little Gadhafi’s bodyguards gunned down 20 fans. Yes, I am serious.
In November, 1996, the Islamic rebels failed in yet another assassination attempt on Moammar when the Russian-made grenade did not detonate properly.
In 1998, just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, Moammar announced that he was tired of having to lead all of the Arabs in the world because some of them didn’t show him the respect he deserved as the great pan-Arabic king. He said he had been generous with his time, and he explained that, after two decades of brutal abuse of blacks in Libya, Libya would now become a “black African” country. Libya would no longer be an “Arab” country. He instructed Libyan men to find and wed only black women, and for Libyan women to marry only black men. The wave of grateful black Africans failed to show up in Libya. The few blacks that mistakenly showed up looking for work faced continued abuse rather than any honeymoons.
On April 5, 1999, after eleven years of “pressure” from the west Libya turned over two of the plotters from the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing for trial in the Hague by Scottish judges. One interesting thing about this is that one of the plotters turned over was a member of the Magharia tribe.
Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, Lockerbie bomber
Eighty-five percent of Libya’s population remains loyal to tribal affiliations to this day. The Magharia tribe’s alliance with Uncle Momo’s Gadhafi tribe is critical for Moammar to remain in power. It has been rumored that Moammar believed a “fix’ was in, and that both of the killers would be acquitted in exchange for continued oil sales. This has never been proven, but one of the bomber plotters was, in fact, acquitted.
In July, 1999, both the US and the UK announced a resumption of diplomatic ties with Libya.
On January 31, 2001, at the International Court in Hague, Netherlands, a Scottish court sentenced Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, to life in a Scottish prison for the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
On May 30, 2001, Gadhafi sent troops and weapons to the Central African Republic to help President Patasse put down a coup attempt. Patasse was temporarily bolstered, but he was unable to subdue the conflict between “southerners” and “northerners” in the CAR, and Patasse was overthrown in a coup in 2003.
On January 20, 2003, the UN managed to establish a new level of absurdity in its long and disappointing history when its human rights watchdog committee elected a Libyan diplomat as its president for the year, despite concern from the US about the country’s poor record on civil liberties, and its well documented role in sponsoring terrorism. So Libya was simultaneously under UN sanctions for terrorism, and it was serving on the UN Commission on Human Rights and its successor, the UN Human Rights Council. The UN General Assembly only suspended Libya from that Council on March 2 of last week.
In April 2003 Libya admitted to the Lockerbie bombing, something everyone had known all along, and agreed to pay reparations to the families of the victims. While Gadhafi was in the middle of his “newer, nicer Uncle Momo” publicity campaign, Libyan agents were captured in Saudi Arabia when they attempted to hatch a plot to kill Saudi Prince Abdullah. The house of Saud will not forget.
On October 4, 2003, in apparent celebration of its appointment to the UN human rights committee Libya, attempted to ship gas centrifuges for Uranium-235 separation from Switzerland via Italy. Italian authorities were alerted in time, and the shipment was captured.
Previous to the centrifuge incident, Libya had received two tons of yellow cake uranium from North Korea in 1991 in exchange for oil and cash. Libya did not yet know that we were aware of the Uranium shipment. Gadhafi realized that he was vulnerable to military action by the UK and the US. He claimed to abandon his efforts at creating a nuclear weapon.
Rumors abounded that both Venezuela and Brazil were cooperating with Libya in a three-nation project to develop nuclear warheads. Eventually, international inspections revealed that Libya’s three nuclear weapons development sites had been dismantled, with all known equipment accounted for.
Mustard gas shells
Libya secretly agreed with the UK and the US to destroy 44,000 pounds of mustard gas under joint supervision by the US and the UK. Neither the US nor the UK wanted the UN involved in the process. No mustard gas was destroyed, and it remains in Libya still, but it does not appear that Gadhafi has pursued further development of the required delivery systems. Keep in mind that manufacturing mustard gas is much easier than safely destroying it. He opened Pandora’s box by making it, and now it’s still in his hands.
After apparently abandoning his WMD programs, Moammar announced a new foreign policy that included renouncing all terrorism. He also announced several economic reforms. From 2004 to the present we’ve seen a major shift in Libyan policy. Gadhafi continues to kill Libyans and other Africans, but he has moved toward a profit-based diplomacy with Western nations.
The blood still flows, but so does the oil.
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Special Edition Libya: Timeline, Part I
Special Edition Libya: Timeline, Part II