Fast Facts

Population:
5,766,000
Capital:
Tripoli; 2,006,000
Area:
1,759,540 square kilometers (679,362 square miles)
Language:
Arabic, Italian, English
Religion:
Sunni Muslim
Currency:
Libyan dinar
Life Expectancy:
76
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $6,200
Literacy Percent:
83
Flag: Libya
Map: Libya

Water-poor, oil-rich Libya has the highest per capita income of continental Africa. Most Libyans live on the Mediterranean coast, many in Tripoli and Banghazi. The largest water development project ever devised, the Great Man-Made River Project, brings water from aquifers under the Sahara to the coastal cities. From 1969 to 2011 this former Italian colony, independent since 1951, was an authoritarian socialist state under Muammar Qaddafi—whose backing of terrorism led to a U.S. bombing in 1986 and UN sanctions in 1992. In 2003 Libya ended its international isolation and abandoned its weapons programs. Qaddafi subsequently made significant strides in normalizing relations with Western nations. The U.S. rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006.

Unrest that began in several Middle East and North African countries in late December 2010 spread to several Libyan cities in early 2011. The Transitional National Council (TNC) was formed in Benghazi with the stated aim of overthrowing the Qaddafi regime and guiding the country on an interim basis through the transition to democracy. After several months of fighting, anti-Qaddafi forces in August 2011 captured the capital, Tripoli. In mid-September, the UN General Assembly voted to recognize the TNC as the legitimate interim governing body of Libya. Qaddafi was killed during fighting between the TNC and his loyalists on October 20, 2011.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Petroleum, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
  • Agriculture: Wheat, barley, olives, dates; cattle
  • Exports: Crude oil, refined petroleum products

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