Libyan resistance movement

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Not to be confused with Anti-Gaddafi forces.
Libyan resistance movement
Date 1911–42
Location Italian Libya, Egypt, Sudan
  • Initial suppression of the rebellion by the Italians, after Omar Mukhtar's execution
  • Continuation of a reduced resistance movement in Fezzan area
  • Intervention of British and French forces
  • End of Italian occupation of Libya
  • Allied administration of Libya established
  • Creation of a Libyan constitutional monarchy headed by Idris I
 Kingdom of Italy Senussi
 British Empire
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Italy Rodolfo Graziani Omar Mukhtar  Executed
~85,000 soldiers 3,000-7,000 guerrilla militants
Casualties and losses
2,200 5,000 (and many civilians died)[1]

The Libyan resistance movement was the resistance movement against the Italian colonization of Libya from 1911 to 1942.


It was initially led by the Turks after the Italian attack on Ottoman Libya in 1911, but after WWI it was led mainly in Cyrenaica by Omar Mukhtar (Arabic عمر المختار ‘Umar Al-Mukhtār) (1862 - 16 September 1931), who was born in a small village called Janzour located in the eastern part of Barqa. He was the leader for nearly twenty years, from 1912.

Later King Idris and his Senussi tribe in the provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania started to become opposed to the Italian colonization after 1929, when Italy changed its political promises of moderate "protectorate" to the Senussi (done in 1911) and - because of Benito Mussolini - started to take complete colonial control of Libya.

The majority of the resistance was crushed by General Rodolfo Graziani in the 1930s and the country was fully controlled by the Italians with the help of some Arab fascists, to the point that many Libyan colonial troops fought on the side of Italy between 1940 and 1943: two divisions of Libyan colonial troops were created in the late 1930s and more than 30,000 native Libyans fought for Italy during World War II.

In 1940 the Libyans in the coastal areas were granted Italian citizenship as part of the fascist efforts to create the Imperial Italy in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. This reduced the appeal of the Libyan resistance movement to a few Arab/Berbers of the Fezzan area and those who were living in Egypt as refugees.

From 1942[edit]

The reduced resistance movement that was left continued to oppose Italian rule until the arrival of French troops in the Fezzan area in late 1942. At the close of World War II the British and French collaborated with the resistance, mainly after December 1942. Under the leadership of Sayyid Idris, the resistance joined the Allies to force the Italian occupiers out of Libya and start the period of the Allied administration of Libya, after which Idris was finally able to secure the independence of Libya in 1951.

15,000 Chadian soldiers fought for Free France during World War II, which included several campaigns in the Fezzan[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John L. Wright, Libya, a Modern History, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 42.
  2. ^ S. Decalo, 53

External links[edit]