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Thursday, Dec 05 2013 02:00 PM

NELSON MANDELA DIES AT AGE 95

  1. 1 of 33

    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    In this Dec. 7, 2005, file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela, 87, is in a jovial mood at the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, where he met with the winner and runner-up of the local "Idols" competition. South Africa's president says Nelson Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo

    In this Feb. 13, 1990, file photo, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela gives the black power salute to 120,000 ANC supporters packing Soccer City stadium in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison. South Africa's president says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  3. 3 of 33

    By AP Photo/Sasa Kralj

    In this Aug. 22, 1996 file photo, the Dalai Lama, left, walks hand-in-hand with South African President Nelson Mandela prior to an official reception at the presidential office in Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  4. 4 of 33

    By AP Photo/Claudio Luffoli

    In this June 15, 1990 file photo, Pope John Paul II, right, shakes hands with Nelson Mandela, deputy leader of African National Congress, during a private audience at the Vatican. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  5. 5 of 33

    By AP Photo/Rick Wilking

    In this March 27, 1998 file photo, South African President Nelson Mandela, left, and U.S. President Bill Clinton peer through the bars of prison cell No. 5, the cramped, gray cell where Mandela was jailed for 18 years in his struggle against apartheid, on Robben Island, South Africa. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Daniel Muzio

    In this July 23, 1998 file photo, South African President Nelson Mandela greets a crowd outside the National Congress building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as he arrives for a meeting of the four-nation South American Common Market, or Mercosur. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Udo Weitz

    In this Feb. 13, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela give black power salutes as they enter Soccer City stadium in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  8. 8 of 33

    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    In this July 24, 2007, file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela, who turned 89 years old on July 18, laughs while celebrating his birthday with children at the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund in Johannesburg. South Africa's president says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/John Parkin

    In this May 10, 1994, file photo, Nelson Mandela dances at a celebration concert in Pretoria, South Africa, following his inauguration as the country's first black president. South Africa's president says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  10. 10 of 33

    By AP Photo/Sang Tan

    Snowballs rest on the hands of a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela in London's Parliament Square in this Feb. 1, 2009 file photo. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/Sasa Kralj

    In this March 17, 1997 file photo, South African President Nelson Mandela, left, shows the way to Britain's Princess Diana in Cape Town, South Africa, where they discussed the threat of AIDS in the country. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/File

    In this June 27, 2013 file photo, large photographs of former South African President Nelson Mandela are displayed at the Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition at the Civic Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. The "father of the nation" has inspired many artists to create works to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day on Thursday, July 18, 2013 declared by the United Nations as a way to recognize the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

    A painting depicting former South African President Nelson Mandela is featured on the side of a public bus in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in this June 12, 2013 file photo. The "father of the nation" has inspired many artists to create works to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day on Thursday, July 18, 2013 declared by the United Nations as a way to recognize the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    In this June 26, 2013 file photo, a woman wearing earrings bearing the image of former South African President Nelson Mandela bows her head outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where he is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/John Parkin

    In this April 27, 1994, file photo, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela casts his vote during South Africa's first all-race elections at Ohlange High School in Inanda, South Africa, 10 miles (15 kilometers) north of Durban. South Africa's president says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Dario Gambarin

    This July 11, 2010 file photo provided by Italian land artist Dario Gambarin shows his a gigantic portrait of former South African President Nelson Mandela, ploughed by Gambarin in a country field of 27,000 square meters, in Castagnaro, Italy. Gambarin made the portrait to mark the end of the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/NTB

    In this Dec. 10, 1993 file photo, South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medals and Diplomas in Oslo. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    This Dec. 12, 2012 file photo shows a mural depicting former President Nelson Mandela on a hill in Soweto, South Africa. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/Michael Probst

    In this May 15, 2004 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela lifts the World Cup trophy in Zurich, Switzerland, after FIFA's executive committee announced that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament. South Africa's president Jacob Zuma says, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo

    In this Feb. 13, 1990 file photo, Nelson Mandela, right, with his wife, Winnie, participate in a South African Communist Party Rally in the fully-packed Soccer City stadium in Soweto, South Africa, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Nelson Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

    In this file photo from Monday Aug. 6, 2012, former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, then 94, is seen at his home in Qunu, South Africa during a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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    By AP Photo/Ross Setford

    In this June 24, 1995 file photo, South African rugby captain Francios Pienaar, right, receives the Rugby World Cup from South African President Nelson Mandela, left, who wears a South African rugby shirt, after they defeated New Zealand in the final 15-12 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/John Parkin

    In this July 7, 1991, file photo, newly-elected African National Congress President Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie, greet the crowd after arriving at a rally and a week-long national ANC conference held inside South Africa for the first time in 30 years. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  24. 26 of 33

    By AP Photo/David Brauchli

    In this May 10, 1994, file photo, Nelson Mandela, left, takes the oath of office in Pretoria, South Africa, to become the country's first black President. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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  25. 27 of 33

    By AP Photo/Martin Meissner

    In this July 11, 2010, file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela, left, waves to spectators next to his wife, Graca Machel, ahead of the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, that Mandela has died. He was 95.

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    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    A hawker pushes his goods past portraits of former President Nelson Mandela depicted in various stages of his life along a street in Soweto, South Africa, in this March 28, 2013 file photo. The Nobel laureate is a revered figure in South Africa, which has honored his legacy of reconciliation by naming buildings and other places after him and printing his image on national banknotes. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, Mandela died at the age of 95.

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  27. 29 of 33

    By AP Photo/David Goldman

    A monument to former president of South South Africa Nelson Mandela stands in Piedmont Park as a pedestrian passes with her dog, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in Atlanta. Mandela, the first black South African to hold the office, has died at age 95.

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  28. 30 of 33

    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    Police keep watch outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela before it was announced by president Jacob Zuma that Mandela had died, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

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  29. 31 of 33

    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    Police set up a cordon outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela before it was announced by president Jacob Zuma that Mandela had passed away, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. South African President, Jacob Zuma, announced the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, aged 95, to the media Thursday evening Dec. 5, 2013, in South Africa.

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  30. 32 of 33

    By AP Photo/Denis Farrell

    Police keep watch outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela, rear, before it was announced by president Jacob Zuma that Mandela had died, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.

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  31. 33 of 33

    By AP Photo/John Minchillo

    Pedestrians pass beneath the Apollo Theatre marquee commemorating the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. South Africa's first black president died Thursday after a long illness. He was 95.

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BY CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA AND MARCUS ELIASON The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG -- Nelson Mandela, who became one of the world's most beloved statesmen and a colossus of the 20th century when he emerged from 27 years in prison to negotiate an end to white minority rule in South Africa, has died. He was 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at a news conference late Thursday, saying "we've lost our greatest son."

His death closed the final chapter in South Africa's struggle to cast off apartheid, leaving the world with indelible memories of a man of astonishing grace and good humor. Rock concerts celebrated his birthday. Hollywood stars glorified him on screen. And his regal bearing, graying hair and raspy voice made him instantly recognizable across the globe.

As South Africa's first black president, the ex-boxer, lawyer and prisoner No. 46664 paved the way to racial reconciliation with well-chosen gestures of forgiveness. He lunched with the prosecutor who sent him to jail, sang the apartheid-era Afrikaans anthem at his inauguration, and traveled hundreds of miles to have tea with the widow of Hendrik Verwoerd, the prime minister at the time he was imprisoned.

His most memorable gesture came when he strode onto the field before the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg. When he came on the field in South African colors to congratulate the victorious South African team, he brought the overwhelmingly white crowd of 63,000 to its feet, chanting "Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!"

For he had marched headlong into a bastion of white Afrikanerdom -- the temple of South African rugby -- and made its followers feel they belonged in the new South Africa.

At the same time, Mandela was himself uneasy with the idea of being an icon and he did not escape criticism as an individual and a politician, though much of it was muted by his status as a unassailable symbol of decency and principle. As president, he failed to craft a lasting formula for overcoming South Africa's biggest post-apartheid problems, including one of the world's widest gaps between rich and poor. In his writings, he pondered the heavy cost to his family of his decision to devote himself to the struggle against apartheid.

He had been convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for leading a campaign of sabotage against the government, and sent to the notorious Robben Island prison. It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, yet he and other jailed members of his banned African National Congress were able to smuggle out messages of guidance to the anti-apartheid crusade.

As time passed -- the "long, lonely, wasted years," as he termed them -- international awareness of apartheid grew more acute. By the time Mandela turned 70 he was the world's most famous political prisoner. Such were his mental reserves, though, that he turned down conditional offers of freedom from his apartheid jailers and even found a way to benefit from confinement.

"People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones; such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety," Mandela says in one of the many quotations displayed at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. "You learn to look into yourself."

Thousands died, were tortured and were imprisoned in the decades-long struggle against apartheid, so that when Mandela emerged from prison in 1990, smiling and waving to the crowds, the image became an international icon of freedom to rival the fall of the Berlin Wall.

South Africa's white rulers had portrayed Mandela as the spearhead of a communist revolution and insisted that black majority rule would usher in the chaos and bloodshed that had beset many other African countries as they shook off colonial rule.

Yet since apartheid ended, South Africa has held four parliamentary elections and elected three presidents, always peacefully, setting an example on a continent where democracy is still new and fragile. Its democracy has flaws, and the African National Congress has struggled to deliver on promises. It is a front runner ahead of 2014 elections, but corruption scandals and other missteps have undercut some of the promise of earlier years.

"We have confounded the prophets of doom and achieved a bloodless revolution. We have restored the dignity of every South African," Mandela said shortly before stepping down as president in 1999 at age 80.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born July 18, 1918, the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, one of the future "Bantustans," independent republics set up by the apartheid regime to cement the separation of whites and blacks.

Mandela's royal upbringing gave him a dignified bearing that became his hallmark. Many South Africans of all races would later call him by his clan name, Madiba, as a token of affection and respect.

Growing up at a time when virtually all of Africa was under European colonial rule, Mandela attended Methodist schools before being admitted to the black University of Fort Hare in 1938. He was expelled two years later for his role in a student strike.

He moved to Johannesburg and worked as a policeman at a gold mine, boxed as an amateur heavyweight and studied law.

His first wife, nurse Evelyn Mase, bore him four children. A daughter died in infancy, a son was killed in a car crash in 1970 and another son died of AIDS in 2005. The couple divorced in 1957 and Evelyn died in 2004.

Mandela began his rise through the anti-apartheid movement in 1944, when he helped form the ANC Youth League.

He organized a campaign in 1952 to encourage defiance of laws that segregated schools, marriage, housing and job opportunities. The government retaliated by barring him from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg, the first of many "banning" orders he was to endure.

After a two-day nationwide strike was crushed by police, he and a small group of ANC colleagues decided on military action and Mandela pushed to form the movement's guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.

He was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to five years' hard labor for leaving the country illegally and inciting blacks to strike.

A year later, police uncovered the ANC's underground headquarters on a farm near Johannesburg and seized documents outlining plans for a guerrilla campaign. At a time when African colonies were one by one becoming independent states, Mandela and seven co-defendants were sentenced to life in prison.

"I do not deny that I planned sabotage," he told the court. "I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by whites."

The ANC's armed wing was later involved in a series of high-profile bombings that killed civilians, and many in the white minority viewed the imprisoned Mandela as a terrorist. Up until 2008, when President George W. Bush rescinded the order, he could not visit the U.S. without a waiver from the secretary of state certifying he was not a terrorist.

From the late 1960s South Africa gradually became an international pariah, expelled from the U.N., banned from the Olympics. In 1973 Mandela refused a government offer of release on condition he agree to confine himself to his native Transkei. In 1982 he and other top ANC inmates were moved off Robben Island to a mainland prison. Three years later Mandela was again offered freedom, and again he refused unless segregation laws were scrapped and the government negotiated with the ANC.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became president. This Afrikaner recognized the end was near for white-ruled South Africa. Mandela, for his part, continued, even in his last weeks in prison, to advocate nationalizing banks, mines and monopoly industries -- a stance that frightened the white business community.

But talks were already underway, with Mandela being spirited out of prison to meet a white Cabinet minister.

On Feb. 11, 1990, inmate No. 46664, who had once been refused permission to leave prison for his mother's funeral, went free and walked hand-in-hand with Winnie, his wife. Blacks across the country erupted in joy -- as did many whites.

Mandela took charge of the ANC, shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk and was elected president by a landslide in South Africa's first all-race election the following year.

At his inauguration, he stood hand on heart, saluted by white generals as he sang along to two anthems: the apartheid-era Afrikaans "Die Stem," ("The Voice") and the African "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("Lord Bless Africa").

To black South Africans expecting a speedy new deal, Mandela pleaded for patience. The millions denied proper housing, schools and health care under apartheid had expected the revolution to deliver quick fixes, but Mandela recognized he had to embrace free market policies to keep white-dominated big business on his side and attract foreign investment.

For all his saintly image, Mandela had an autocratic streak. When black journalists mildly criticized his government, he painted them as stooges of the whites who owned the media. Whites with complaints were dismissed as pining for their old privileges.

He denounced Bush as a warmonger and the U.S. having "committed unspeakable atrocities in the world." When asked about his closeness to Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi despite human rights violations in the countries they ruled, Mandela explained that he wouldn't forsake supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle.

With his fellow Nobelist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed human rights offenders of all races to admit their crimes publicly in return for lenient treatment. It proved to be a kind of national therapy that would become a model for other countries emerging from prolonged strife.

He increasingly left the governing to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who took over when Mandela's term ended in June 1999 and he declined to seek another -- a rarity among African presidents.

"I must step down while there are one or two people who admire me," Mandela joked at the time. When he retired, he said he was going to stand on a street with a sign that said: "Unemployed, no job. New wife and large family to support."

His marriage to Winnie had fallen apart after his release and he was now married to Graca Machel, the widowed former first lady of neighboring Mozambique.

He is survived by Machel; his daughter Makaziwe by his first marriage, and daughters Zindzi and Zenani by his second.

-- Donna Bryson, former AP bureau chief in Johannesburg, contributed to this report. Marcus Eliason has worked for the AP in South Africa and is now stationed in New York.

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