During nearly 42 years in power in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi was one of the world's most eccentric dictators, so mercurial that he was both condemned and courted by the West, while he brutally warped his country with his idiosyncratic vision of autocratic rule until he was finally toppled by his own people.
The modern Arab world's longest-ruling figure, Libya's "Brother Leader" displayed striking contrasts. He was a sponsor of terrorism whose regime was blamed for blowing up two passenger jets, who then helped the U.S. in the war on terror. He was an Arab nationalist who mocked Arab rulers. In the crowning paradox, he preached a "revolutionary" utopia of people power but ran a one-man dictatorship that fueled the revolution against him.
His death on Thursday at age 69 - confirmed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril - came as Libyan fighters defeated Gadhafi's last holdouts in his hometown of Sirte, the last major site of resistance in the country.
Their final declaration of victory came weeks after Gadhafi was swept from power by rebels who drove triumphantly into the capital of Tripoli on Aug. 21, capping a six-month civil war.
"Dance, sing and fight!" Gadhafi had exhorted his followers even as his enemies were on the capital's doorstep before fleeing into Libya's hinterlands where his die-hard backers had continued to battle the rebels-turned-rulers.
Gadhafi leaves behind an oil-rich nation of 6.5 million traumatized by a rule that drained it of institutions while the ship of state was directed by the whims of one man and his family. Notorious for his extravagant outfits - ranging from white suits and sunglasses to military uniforms with frilled epaulets to brilliantly colored robes decorated with the map of Africa - he styled himself as a combination Bedouin chief and philosopher king.
Image: Files representing a portrait picture of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, taken at history's so far biggest top meeting ever, the meeting of the Non-Alligned Nations, with representatives from 76 Nations, mostly Africa, Asia and Latin America, in Algiers September 9, 1973