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Libyan rebels watch rocket shells explode Rebel forces in Libya have battled attacks from their country's leader for more than a month. (Roberto Schmidt/ AFP / Getty Images / NewsCom)

The Battle for Libya

The U.S. and its allies act to stop Libya’s leader from attacking his own people

By Laura Leigh Davidson | March 22 , 2011
<p>TOP: Muammar al-Qaddafi is struggling to stay in power after 42 years of ruling Libya. (Alessandra Benedetti / Corbis)</p><p>CENTER: Fighter planes from many countries—including the U.S.—are enforcing the no-fly zone in northern Libya. (Donato Fasano/AP Images)</p><p>BOTTOM: Qaddafi’s base is the country’s capital, Tripoli, while the rebels have formed their own capital in Benghazi. (Jim McMahon)<br /></p>

TOP: Muammar al-Qaddafi is struggling to stay in power after 42 years of ruling Libya. (Alessandra Benedetti / Corbis)

CENTER: Fighter planes from many countries—including the U.S.—are enforcing the no-fly zone in northern Libya. (Donato Fasano/AP Images)

BOTTOM: Qaddafi’s base is the country’s capital, Tripoli, while the rebels have formed their own capital in Benghazi. (Jim McMahon)

On Saturday, the U.S. and other countries, including France and the United Kingdom, began military attacks against the government of Libya, a country in North Africa. They are trying to stop the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, from attacking his own people.

More than a month ago, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Libya in protests similar to those in Egypt and Tunisia. They demanded that Qaddafi, the dictator who rules Libya, step down. (A dictator is someone who has complete control over a country, often ruling unfairly.)

Qaddafi has ruled Libya for 41 years and he refuses to leave. To stay in power, Qaddafi is using the country’s military to attack protesters.

Many protesters have joined an army of rebels—people who have organized to fight the ruler or leadership of a government.

In the past few days, Qaddafi’s troops and warplanes have attacked both the rebels and others who live in cities where rebels have taken control. That’s when governments around the world agreed to help defend Libya’s rebels against Qaddafi.

INTERNATIONAL INVOLVEMENT

The United Nations (U.N.), an international body composed of 192 countries, passed a resolution allowing for the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya. No-fly zones are areas where most airplanes are not permitted to fly. The U.N. hopes this will stop Qaddafi’s attacks from the air.

To enforce the no-fly zone, planes flown by U.N. member countries—including the U.S.—may attack Qaddafi’s planes to prevent them from bombing rebel cities.

On Saturday, warplanes from France and the United Kingdom struck Qaddafi’s military bases in the east and west. U.S. warships and submarines fired more than 100 missiles at Libyan government targets.

U.S. President Barack Obama stressed that this is a “limited military action,” meaning that the U.S. has not declared war on Libya.

“I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it,” Obama said. “I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice, and it’s not a choice that I make lightly.”

Over the next few days, there will likely be fewer attacks by U.S. forces as France and the United Kingdom take control of the mission. But the U.S. will still support the militaries of other countries in their fight against Qaddafi’s forces. Fuel stations, missiles, and much of America’s firepower will be loaned to other governments ready to help protect Libya’s people.

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