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The Battle for Libya
various photographers

Following the departure of Tunisia's strongman Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in early January and the drawn-out showdown between President Mubarak and anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, on 17 February 2011 it was Libya's turn.

After the arrest of a vocal human rights activist who had campaigned on behalf of political prisoners, Libya's second city Benghazi, long the stronghold of anti-Gadaffi agitation, erupted in spontaneous rioting on the fourth anniversary of anti-government riots in 2006 that had left a number of protesters dead. Though they scored a number of local victories against an ill-prepared and divided army early on, anti-government rebels increasingly lost ground to a defiant Gadaffi who vowed to "die a martyr" rather than relinquish power and started to pound rebel positions with superior fire power.

Over the first two weeks of March, constantly shifting front lines and a messy theatre of local battles characterised the inconclusive uprising that increasingly started to resemble a fully blown civil war.

Gadaffi's regime has been placed under an arms embargo by the UN Security Council, his family banned from travelling to numerous countries and the Libyan government referred to the International Criminal Court for its violent crackdown on protesters.

With his characteristic intransigence unbroken by international censure and no end in sight to the often brutal fighting across Libya, a consensus between the Arab League, France, the United Kingdom and the US started to emerge about the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, akin to the one enforced over Iraq and the Balkans.

On 19 March, two months after the beginning of the uprising, French fighter jets targeted pro-Gadaffi forces advancing toward the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi, destroying a number of tanks and halting the advance.

Panos photographers William Daniels, Fredrik Naumann, Jeroen Oerlemans, Sven Torfinn and Mads Nissen have covered the ongoing crisis in and around Libya, with tens of thousands of migrant labourers ending up in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, often becoming stranded due to lack of onward transport. Click HERE to view a full selection on the Panos archive.

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