Basic facts about Libya:
_ 1951: Libya wins independence after three decades of Italian colonial rule and eight years of U.N. trusteeship.
_ 1969: Moammar Gadhafi, a 27-year-old army captain, leads a largely peaceful coup that overthrows the monarchy, quickly becoming Libya's undisputed ruler. He moves to establish a socialist system, including nationalizing businesses, and supports groups considered by the West to be terrorists.
_ April 1986: U.S. jets bomb a Gadhafi compound in Tripoli after Libya is found responsible for a bomb blast at a Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. troops. The U.S. airstrikes kill Gadhafi's adopted baby daughter.
_ 1988: Suspected Libyan agents plant a bomb that blows up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people, mostly Americans. In the wake of the bombing, Libya becomes increasingly isolated, including the subject of U.N. sanctions.
_ 2003: Libya accepts responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and says it will end efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. In following years, it makes progress toward normalizing relations with the West.
_ January 2009: The U.S. and Libya exchange ambassadors for the first time in 35 years, after Libya pays compensation to the families of the Lockerbie victims.
_ 2009: Gadhafi marks 40 years of rule with lavish celebrations. He is elected chairman of the African Union for one year.
_ Feb. 15, 2011: Anti-government protests erupt as part of a wider wave of pro-democracy rallies in the Arab world. The Libyan uprising quickly turns bloody, with pro-Gadhafi forces clamping down hard and firing on protesters.
_ 1.7 million square kilometers (660,000 square miles), or slightly larger than Alaska.
_ More than 90 percent of the land is desert or semi-desert
_ Neighbors: Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan
_ 6.5 million residents, including one-third age 14 and younger
_ Nearly 80 percent of the population live in cities
_ 97 percent Muslims
_ Gross Domestic Product of $62 billion in 2009, according to the World Bank.
_ Virtually all export revenues come from oil exports.
_ Per capita GDP of about $12,000, classified upper middle income level by the World Bank,
_ Ninth-largest oil reserves in the world
_ In 2010, Freedom House gives Libya the worst possible score on a scale measuring freedom.
_ In a 2005 report, the U.S. State Department says Libya's human rights record remains poor, despite some improvements. It cites continued torture of detainees, arbitrary arrests and severe restrictions of civil liberties, among a host of violations of human rights.