Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and first black president of South Africa, died Thursday. He was 95 years old.
South President Jacob Zuma announced Mr. Mandela's death in a nationally televised address, saying he had "passed on peacefully."
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr. Zuma said. He said that Mr. Mandela will be accorded a state funeral and that national flags will be flown at half mast.
Mr. Mandela spent near three decades in prison for his role in the fight to end white minority rule and official discrimination against blacks in South Africa.
After his release, he emerged as a revered symbol of peace and reconciliation and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year, he became South Africa's first president.
Mr. Mandela, who contracted tuberculosis during his nearly three decades of incarceration, was hospitalized repeatedly during the past several years, most recently for a recurring lung infection.
Tributes for Mr. Mandela began pouring in from around the world immediately after the announcement.
U.S. President Barack Obama said, "Today he's gone home." The United States' first black president said the world has lost one of the most courageous and profoundly good human beings, and said he could not imagine his own life without the example Mr. Mandela set.
British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted, "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No. 10 (Downing Street, his residence) to be flown at half mast."
The African National Congress, which Mr. Mandela joined in 1943 and whose youth league he co-founded, said in a statement Thursday that South Africa had lost "a colossus and epitome of humility, equality, justice and peace."
Mr. Mandela served as the ANC's president from 1991 to 1997. He was South Africa's president from 1994 until he retired from public life in 1999.