TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — During his nearly 42 years in power, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi was a man of striking contrasts. He was a sponsor of terrorism, whose regime was blamed for blowing up two passenger jets -- but he then helped the U.S. in the war on terror. And he was an Arab nationalist who also mocked Arab rulers.
He preached a "revolutionary" utopia of people power -- but he ran a one-man dictatorship that fueled the revolution that ultimately forced him out.
Gadhafi's death today at age 69 came as Libyan fighters defeated the last holdouts in his hometown.Moammar Gadhafi (Photo: AFP)
During his reign, he delighted in angering foreign leaders. After a 1986 bombing that killed U.S. servicemen in Berlin, Ronald Regan called him a "mad dog." Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said Gadhafi was "mentally sick."
He was notorious for wearing extravagant outfits -- ranging from white suits and sunglasses to brilliantly colored robes. But behind the flamboyance and showmanship, associates say he was meticulous in managing the levers of power.
His most spectacular U-turn came in 2003 -- when, after years of denial, Libya acknowledged responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. He agreed to pay up to $10 million to relatives of each victim. Within months, the U.S. lifted economic sanctions and resumed diplomatic ties.
But he again became a pariah when he began a brutal crackdown on the February uprising in his country. NATO launched a campaign of airstrikes against his military forces, helping anti-Gadhafi fighters advance, and ultimately prevail.