The fierce battle to topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi began with anti-government protests in the eastern city of Benghazi, and a "day of rage" on 17 February 2011. The government orchestrated pro-government rallies in the capital Tripoli, as Gaddafi vowed to clamp down on the demonstrations.

A bloody civil war raged for months, until the United Nations Security Council imposed a no-fly zone on the country and authorised "all necessary measures" – code for military action – to protect civilians against Gaddafi's army. On 21 August, rebel fighters entered Tripoli with little resistance and two days later, made their way into Gaddafi's compound at Bab al-Aziziya.

Gaddafi himself escaped to his hometown, Sirte, where after several weeks – as he tried to flee to the south of the country – he was captured cowering beneath a drain and then killed by Libyan interim government forces, along with his son Mutassim.