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Libya is a North African country with a coastline on the Gulf of Sidra and the Mediterranean Sea. Neighboring countries include Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Egypt.

The coastal area of Libya has been inhabited since 8,000 BC or earlier, and the ancestors of the Berber people came into the area around the Late Bronze Age. The Phoenicians established trading posts along the coast and, by 500 BC, the coastal towns were under the control of Carthage. In 630 BC, the Ancient Greeks took control of eastern Libya, founding Cyrene in 631, which became a prominent city and, later, the center of a republic. In the next couple of centuries, other Greek cities were founded, and the area became known as Cyrenaica.

In 525 BC, the Persians took Cyrenaica, and control passed from the Persians to the Egyptians, or the Greeks for a couple of centuries. When Carthage fell, the area around Tripoli became a province of Rome in 74 BC.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, the classical cities of Libya deteriorated, particularly when the Vandals swept through North Africa in the 400s AD. When the Roman Empire returned under the Byzantines, there was an effort to rebuild the cities, but it largely failed as more resources and effort was placed on strengthening the military might of the area. By the end of the 600s, Berber rebellions were common and the Byzantine Empire was unable to guard against a Muslim invasion.

Forces of the Rashidun Caliphate took much of Libya, while the Egyptians took Tripoli. For the next several centuries Libya changed hands several times.

In the early 1500s, Spain invaded Tripoli, and the Ottomans conquered Libya in 1551. The port cities of Libya became an important part of the slave trade.

The Ottoman Empire was not particularly attentive, however. In 1611, a coup was staged against the Ottoman military commanders and for the next century, while the region was ostensibly still part of the Ottoman Empire, actual control was in the hands of a series of local rulers. Lacking direction from the Ottoman government, a series of coups resulted in a period of military anarchy in Tripoli and other coastal cities, and Barber pirates began using the Tripoli coast as a base.

After a series of attacks on American ships in the early 1800s, the United States initiated a series of wars against Tripoli, which were known as the Barbary Wars. As the Barbers were forced to give up piracy, the region's economy declined and it found itself involved in a civil war.

Following the victory of Italy in the Italo-Turkish War, Italy made colonies of the Libyan provinces, which became Italian North Africa. For a short period of time, it was divided into two segments: Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, both ruled by Italian governors. By the 1930s, Italians made up about 20% of the population of Libya. Italy gave the region the name of Libya. Italy's fortunes changed when it chose the wrong side in World War II.

Libya was occupied by the Allies from 1943 to 1951, with Britain administering the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, while France provided direction for Fezzan.

In 1951, Libya declared independence and became the United Kingdom of Libya, a constitutional monarchy. The discovery of oil in 1959 made Libya a wealthy nation.

In 1969, Muammar Gaddafi led a successful coup against King Idris, after which he nationalized all Italian-owned assets and expelled the Italian community from Libya, along with the Jews. Gaddafi survived a couple of coup attempts, spending much of the nation's oil wealth on arms purchases, and on the sponsorship of paramilitary groups throughout the world. An American air strike intended to kill Gaddafi failed in 1986, and Libya was put under United Nations sanctions after it was blamed for the bombing of a commercial flight that killed 270 people, and was later expelled from membership.

Shortly after Arab Spring movements overturned the governments of Egypt and Tunisia, Libya found itself facing a revolt in 2011. Although Gaddafi was able to put up more of a resistance than other countries, Gadaffi was captured and killed in October of 2011.

Since that time, Libyans have faced several rival armed militias vying for power, often pitting one Muslim sect against another. In September of 2012, the US Consulate in Benghazi was attacked, and the American ambassador and three other Americans were killed. While periodic elections have been held in Libya, the country has not known large periods of peace.

Today, the population of Libya might be referred to as Arabized Berbers. More than 10% of its population is made up migrant laborers, who are without citizenship. The country's official language is Arabic, and about 97% of its population practices Islam, and all followers of Christianity are foreigners there under work permits.



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