The Rule of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi

The Quixotic Rise of Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Keystone / Zuma

Ascent to Power
The only son of an illiterate Bedouin herder, Muammar Gaddafi assumed the leadership of Libya in 1969 after participating, along with several other officers, in a bloodless coup against King Idris, the nation's first independent head of state. Only 27 years old, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, the highest position in the Libyan army. He declared himself the commander in chief of the armed forces and the de facto head of the Libyan state.

Get the Latest Photos from
Get TIME photos and pictures of the week delivered directly to your inbox.