The Story of SIRTE: From Beautiful City to Medieval ‘Caliphate’ in Just 4 Years…

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

On October 19th 2011, a convoy of cars left the city of Sirte, carrying Libya’s beleaguered figurehead Muammar Gaddafi.

On October 21st, an American/CIA drone (being operated from Las Vegas) spots the convoy and alerts NATO bombers, which immediately begin bombing the vehicles.

It was French planes that started the attack, but soon NATO war-planes from other nations also arrived and joined in. Many or most of those human beings in these vehicles on the ground were incinerated, while others were torn apart by machine-gun fire.

Gaddafi himself survived this air-strike, but the NATO-backed armed gangs later found him.

NATO, French and British SAS forces helped the bloodthirsty rebels in Sirte locate and capture Gaddafi. British SAS troops coordinated the ground forces (Al-Qaeda and the rebel jihadists) and unconfirmed reports have persisted that French agents were actually *among* the crowd of crazed rebels that tortured, sodomized and executed Gaddafi (for a comprehensive account of all of this, consult the free download of ‘The Libya Conspiracy‘).

The man who had guided the development of Libya into a prosperous country for four decades was paraded, bloodied and dazed, dragged about by the manic, crazed, drug-fueled mob with their blood-curdling cries of ‘God is Great’, filmed for the benefit of all the world’s news stations and newspapers; and then at some point in the chaos he was executed.

Gaddafi murdered in Sirte, October 2011 

Almost as soon as Gaddafi was toppled, the Al-Qaeda flags were flying over the Benghazi courthouse in celebration. America, France and the rest of the Western governments and regional allies celebrated with them; a great victory for ‘The Good Guys’.

Gaddafi’s assassination marked the end of an era and the end of Libya; but it was only the beginning of the suffering and degradation that Sirte itself was to suffer.

The son of an impoverished Bedouin goat herder, Gaddafi had been born in a tent near Qasr Abu Hadi, a rural area outside the town of Sirte in the deserts of western Libya; he very much regarded Sirte as his birthplace and ‘home town’. Gaddafi had subsequently transformed Sirte, carrying out extensive programmes of public works to expand what was once a village into a small city.

After 1988, many government departments, along with the Libyan parliament, were relocated from Tripoli to Sirte, even while Tripoli remained the formal capital of Libya.

Sirte was in fact intended by the Gaddafi-era government to be the future capital of a unified Africa.

The ‘Sirte Declaration‘ was the resolution adopted by the Organisation of African Unity in 1999, when numerous African Heads of State were hosted in Sirte to establish the African Union.

In 2007, Sirte was also where Gaddafi held the talks to broker a peace agreement between the Sudan government and the warring factions of Darfur.

The city would later, perhaps even fittingly, be the final stronghold of Gaddafi loyalists in the foreign-orchestrated bloodbath of the ‘Libyan Civil War’ in 2011. In a radio address on 1st September 2011, Gaddafi had been forced by events to declare Sirte the new capital of Libya, after Tripoli had been captured by the NATO-backed rebels. Beyond the bloodbaths in Tripoli and Benghazi, thousands of civilians were killed by NATO and the rebels in just Sirte alone.

Read more: ‘The Libya Conspiracy: A Definitive Guide to the Libya Intervention & the Crime of the Century‘…

After Gaddafi’s murder, Sirte was left almost completely in ruins by both the NATO bombing and the on-the-ground destruction by jihadists, with most buildings and infrastructure either entirely destroyed or severely damaged. The destruction of Sirte came to perfectly symbolise the destruction of Libya itself, as everything that had been built, everything it had been transformed into for four decades, and everything it symbolised in terms of both Libya and Africa, was left in ruins.

These images below are what Sirte used to look like prior to the Western bombing campaign of 2011…

 Sirte, Libya

Apartments in Sirte, Libya

Al Tahadi University, Sirte, Libya 

And this below is what Sirte looked like after the bombing campaign conducted by all the wealthiest nations on earth. The same can be said for other Libyan cities, including the once extraordinary city of Tripoli.

 Bombed neighbourhoods in Sirte, Libya

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing 

For Sirte, that wasn’t even where the story ended.

The persecution of pro-Gaddafi supporters after Gaddafi’s death became commonplace. Even after Gaddafi was dead, loyalists remained and among the civilian population there were still plenty willing to speak openly about where their support had lay. “We lived in democracy under Muammer Gaddafi, he was not a dictator. I lived in freedom, Libyan women had full human rights. We want to live just as we did before,” said one resident, in this piece in The Telegraph. “There is little food, not enough clean water and no gas. Now we live worse than animals.”


That was just over four years ago. In the four years since NATO and the international community decided to overthrow the Libyan state, have things improved?

Any poor soul in Sirte who might’ve held to such an optimistic view wouldn’t have been thinking those things for very long; neither would any poor soul in Benghazi or Tripoli. Because there’s no sign of the ‘democracy’ the West promised, nor any inkling of ‘human rights’.

And the rape and desolation of Sirte, as with most of Libya, continues to this day.

But to complete the sordid story and make it all the more perverse, the city that was the birthplace of Muammar Gaddafi and the heart of the African Union is now the headquarters of ‘Daesh’ or the so-called ‘Islamic State’.

Much of Sirte’s population of 300,000 people were either subject to the NATO-backed genocide or had to flee during the 2011 war in Libya. Eventually much of the population dared to return and to attempt to build the city in the absence of Gaddafi and the government (about 70% of the population had returned to Sirte); but then in February 2015, ‘ISIL’ terrorists appeared ‘out of nowhere’ – in a fleet of shiny, brand new Toyota pick-ups.

An ISIS siege of the city commenced.

The international community – the same international community that had used overwhelming military force to overthrow the Libyan state and allow scores of foreign terrorists to enter the country – did absolutely nothing to stop this ISIS invasion or to come to the aid of its ‘liberated’ Libya. And now, just as the hijacked Syrian city of Raqqa is about to be taken from ‘ISIS’, Sirte is already in place to be the next base of the extremist ‘caliphate’.

Some analysts are already calling Sirte, and not Raqqa in Syria, the Islamic State ‘capital’.

Two months into the Russian campaign against ISIL targets in Syria, a UN report in December warned that up to 5,000 ISIL terrorists were now in Libya, with half of them concentrated in Sirte, and that the extremist group “sees the country as a retreat zone and strategic hub for recruits unable to reach its Syrian heartland.”

US military propagandist Joseph V. Micallef writes, ‘It’s believed that about 70% of the Islamic State militants in Libya are foreigners, with the bulk coming from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia. In recent months there have been consistent reports that Islamic State has been transferring  “administrators” and “military commanders” to Libya to take direct control of its militants there. Moreover, Islamic State websites in Libya have been prominently featuring the slogan that “Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” suggesting that if Raqqa falls, Sirte may become the new capital of Islamic State…’

There is, again, a perverse symbolism in the home town and birthplace of the late Libyan figurehead being turned into the ‘new Raqqa’ or capital of the Islamic State, which probably isn’t lost on Sirte’s beleaguered residents.

ISIL being able to take over Sirte isn’t surprising, given the utter absence of security or even a functioning state. NATO and the Western governments disarmed the Libyan population, making resistance close to impossible; moreover they left Sirte, as with most of the rest of the country, in ruins and with no functioning system of government or law-enforcement. The story isn’t new; just as much of Iraq was left shattered, vulnerable and disunited after the US-led invasion, so again with Libya, which has been left an easy victim by the West’s devastation of the country. With no unified government, and with various terrorist or extremist militias carving out their own territories, who are the Libyan people supposed to turn to?

Read more: ‘As ISIS Humiliates Libya, Second Western Intervention Imminent‘…

 ISIS convoy in Libya 

ISIL/Daesh swept to power in Sirte with ease, partly thanks to an alliance with the local branch of the jihadist ‘Ansar al-Sharia‘ group that was born out of the 2011 uprising in which various jihadist leaders, including Al-Qaeda commanders and former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, were allowed by the West to lay the foundations for their future ‘caliphates’. In essence, everything NATO and the Western governments have tried to let happen in Syria is what they *did* let happen in Libya.

Sirte has in fact become a hub or HQ for terrorist organisations.

In recent communications with the leadership of Libya’s Tribes’ Council, American contacts James and Joanne Moriarty were told that the leadership of ISIL, Boko Haram, Ansar al-Sharia, and possibly other terror groups, had all gathered in Sirte for meetings that took place around the 9th and 10th of December 2015.

It is a tremendous irony that the place that was previously hosting the African Union and a movement for ‘African unity’ (and the likes of Nelson Mandela) was now instead hosting terrorist leaders and extremist jihadists.

ISIS have reportedly set up their command centre right next to the domed, marble-clad conference centre that Gaddafi had built to host pan-African summits. They have taken control of the formerly state-run radio station, which they now use to broadcast speeches by the extremist caliphate’s religious leaders. Further to this, ISIL’s leadership may have been strategically relocated to Sirte in recent months, following the assaults on ISIL strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Iranian news agency FARS reported two months ago that ISIL’s elusive ‘caliph’ or leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wasn’t in Raqqa nor in Iraq, but had been spirited out of Turkey and transported safely to Sirte, now ‘the safest jihadist stronghold in the world’.

This is believed to have happened on around December 9th, roughly the same time James and Jo Moriarty say the gathering of terrorist leaders took place in Sirte.

If true, it means the leader of the ‘Islamic State’ group is now based in Gaddafi’s birthplace.

The two rival Libyan ‘governments’ have conducted airstrikes against ISIL in Sirte in recent months, but their capabilities are very limited, relying on outdated warplanes and helicopters from the Gaddafi era, and a lack of precision weapons.


By late November 2015, Sirte was under the complete control of ISIL.

With now an estimated 1,500 fighters in the city, ISIL have predictably started to impose their own rule of law, just as if Sirte was Raqqa; with dress codes for men and women, segregation in school classrooms and the establishment of religious police.

This is what the once proud Libyan people are subjected to in Sirte, the legacy of a Western/NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ that was really nothing of the sort. Punishments are inflicted on residents, for crimes ranging from theft or alcohol production to “spying”. These include imprisonment, amputations, public crucifixions and beheadings. The group has set up its own religious police force and is reported to be carrying out constant house-to-house searches and forcing residents to attend religious ‘re-education’ classes.

The image below is a billboard put up to show women how they are now expected to conduct themselves…

 Islamic State billboard in Sirte, Libya, showing female dress code 

This image, on the other hand, captures some of the hundreds of thousands of Libyan women who took to the streets throughout 2011 to show their support for Gaddafi and the former Libyan Republic and who had repeatedly asked NATO and the international coalition to stop the bombing and allow Libyans to determine their own future…

 Libyan women supporting Gaddafi, 2011 

From this BBC report on the situation in Sirte today, a children’s doctor says, ‘The killing is unbelievable. I lost four cousins on my father’s side, five cousins on my mother’s side, three other relatives and two neighbours. One cousin was crucified at the Zaafran roundabout’.

ISIL’s brutality in Libya has been more or less the same as its actions in Syria and Iraq. When citizens in Sirte took up arms to try to push back the foreign terrorists, residents have said the jihadists engaged in a brutal crackdown. Cleric Khalid Awad said that ISIS had killed some of their prisoners and hung the bodies from bridges, roundabouts and highways across the city, the AFP news agency reported.

There were also reports that the group had beheaded 12 people and crucified them.

The Islamic State has also been pushing east from Sirte in an operation to seize control of the country’s oil infrastructure, mirroring what the extremists have previously done in both Syria and Iraq. As Middle East Eye wrote last summer, “the desert region to the south of the oil ports has been strategically cleared in a series of attacks by IS militants on security personnel and oil fields, where employees have been killed and kidnapped, and vehicles and equipment seized.”

This is now the reality of Sirte and the conditions its citizens live under; a gift from NATO, the UN and leading officials from virtually every Western government.

A city bombed to rubble by the wealthiest nations on earth and now taken over by scores of mostly foreign extremists who subject the citizens to the humiliation of a medieval life.

Read more: ‘Libya After Gaddafi: The Humiliation & Horrors of a ‘Failed State‘…


'The Libya Conspiracy' ebook cover
Download ‘THE LIBYA CONSPIRACY’ here. Or read it in Google Docs here.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


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