Colonel Gadaffi has maintained himself in power for over thirty years, longer than most leaders in the Arab world. Although he is considered by some to be the arch-proponent of international terrorism, his position has become increasingly insecure, and indeed after the American air raid in April 1986, Gadaffi failed to appear in public for several months. He has carried his interpretation of Islamic law to unprecedented lengths in flouting diplomatic conventions, for example by ordering his diplomats to shoot Libyan demonstrators in the streets of London from inside the Libyan Embassy in 1984. The only crime of these demonstrators was that they were anti-Gadaffi.
To many millions of people throughout the world, Gadaffi is a direct sponsor of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Diplomatic privilege has been abused through the use of the diplomatic bag to smuggle weapons with which to kill anti-Gadaffi Libyans in European countries. Because of its involvement in world affairs and its liberal traditions Europe will always attract exiles. Unscrupulous states such as Libya under Gadaffi and Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini seek them out, so that European states will continue to suffer from political conflicts and disputes to which they are not a party. Gadaffi has provided supplies of weapons, usually obtained originally from the Soviet Union, to Irish republicans.
In 1980 Gadaffi sent his hit squads to seven different countries. They carried out fourteen separate attacks abroad against Libyan exiles in 1980 alone, murdering eleven people.
Since he came to power Gadaffi has concentrated on killing Libyan exiles opposed to his regime, destabilising the governments of neighbouring Arab countries and supporting violence, particularly by funding and arming small, violent groups which might otherwise be unable to survive. However, although he has castigated the West and his Arab enemies and made much of his support for revolutionary movements including support for more than thirty terrorist groups in the past, from the Red Brigades to the IRA and Abu Nidal, none of his protégés has ever been wholly dependent on him for survival. Support for Nidal, however, does represent a new and radical step for Gadaffi. His global ambitions have been fuelled by his oil wealth, and as the cash supply increased, so he began to influence small terrorist groups more for political ambitions than as a dedicated terrorists' patron.
Gadaffi's relations with Palestine have been mercurial, which has led him to become one of the least popular of the backers of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). While the recruiting of terrorists has fallen off in recent years, there are still training camps in Libya, although Gadaffi owes the Soviet Union considerable cash sums for arms. During the 1980s Gadaffi has supplied almost no money to terrorist groups and his global ambitions have had to be contained within budgetary constraints. Nevertheless Gadaffi has become the bogeyman of international terrorism, despite others who arguably could be