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Mandela's body lies in state

11 December 2013, 10:42

Pretoria -  The casket of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, draped in the mulch-colored South African flag, arrived Wednesday at the seat of power in the country's capital for public viewing.

Motorcycle-riding police officers escorted the casket from 1 Military Hospital outside of Pretoria to the Union Buildings, once a symbol of the white-dominated government in the country. When Mandela took office, he used the building as his offices and the presidency is still located there.

Some residents of Pretoria lined the streets to watch the procession go by. They sang old struggle songs and called out their farewells to Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.

Soldiers in formal uniforms carried Mandela's casket into the Union Buildings to a special viewing center built inside the building's amphitheater, which President Jacob Zuma named after Mandela by decree Tuesday.

Mandela's body will lie in state for three days. On Wednesday, Mandela family members, government officials and world leaders are expected to pass by the coffin. It's unclear whether it will be an open- or closed-casket viewing, though officials have banned cameras from being inside the viewing area.

Each day, Mandela's coffin will be driven back to 1 Military Hospital to be held overnight.

Mandela's body will be flown Saturday to Qunu, his home in the Eastern Cape Province. He will be buried Sunday.

On Tuesday, world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, eulogized Mandela. In his speech, Obama called Mandela "the last great liberator of the 20th century."

"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," Obama said. "But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world — you can make his life's work your own."

- AP


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