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August 2016



On August 1st 2016, the United States Air Force struck an Islamic State stronghold in Sirte, Lybia. There are 22 districts (shabiyat) in Libya; the city of Sirte lies inside the district of Surt. It is roughly 500 km to the West of Tripoli (Libya's capital city).

Libya is a country that is slightly larger than the US state of Alaska. It lies along the southern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia. It also shares borders with: Algeria; Chad, Niger, and Sudan. On the map referenced here, the city of Sirte is represented by an older spelling of Surt. Other alternate spellings include: Sirt, Sert, and Qasr Sirt.

During the last century, Libya was a country governed by others. The Ottoman Turks controlled the area around Tripoli until 1911, when the Italians took control. Italy relinquished their hold in 1943, after defeat in World War II. Libya passed to UN administration and achieved independence in 1951. Following a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar al-Qadhafi assumed leadership and began to espouse his political system at home, which was a combination of socialism and Islam. During the 1970s, Qadhafi used oil revenues to promote his ideology outside Libya, supporting subversive and terrorist activities that included the downing of two airliners - one over Scotland, another in Northern Africa - and a discotheque bombing in Berlin.

UN sanctions in 1992 isolated Qadhafi politically and economically following the attacks; sanctions were lifted in 2003 following Libyan acceptance of responsibility for the bombings and agreement to claimant compensation. Qadhafi also agreed to end Libya's program to develop weapons of mass destruction, and he made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations.

Unrest that began in several Middle Eastern and North African countries in late 2010 erupted in Libyan cities in early 2011. Qadhafi's brutal crackdown on protesters spawned a civil war that triggered UN authorization of air and naval intervention by the international community. After months of seesaw fighting between government and opposition forces, the Qadhafi regime was toppled in mid-2011 and replaced by a transitional government. Libya in 2012 formed a new parliament and elected a new prime minister. The country subsequently elected the House of Representatives in 2014; however, unrest continued.

In October 2015, UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, proposed a power-sharing arrangement - known as the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed by the rival governments two months later and subsequently endorsed by the UN. The agreement called for the formation of an interim Government of National Accord or GNA and the holding of general elections within two years.

CIA World Factbook; Library of Congress Authorities website , 7/2016; 5/2016

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