Moammar Gadhafi killed photo: Libyan strongman killed in battle

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.

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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."

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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.