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Former South Vietnam Leader Nguyen Cao Ky Dies

In this Jan. 23, 2004 file photo, former South Vietnamese premier Nguyen Cao Ky, talks during an interview in Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen Cao Ky, the flamboyant former air force general who ruled South Vietnam with an iron fist for two years during the Vietnam

Nguyen Cao Ky, the former leader of South Vietnam, has died. He was 81 years old.

His family said Ky died Saturday at a hospital in Malaysia where he was being treated for respiratory complications.

Ky served as commander of the air force and as prime minister of U.S. backed South Vietnam during the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s.

He also served as vice president under General Nguyen Van Thieu. When Thieu's government in Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975, Ky fled the country piloting a helicopter to a U.S. Navy ship.

He and his family eventually settled in the United States.

In 2004, Ky made headlines when he visited Vietnam, dropping his staunchly anti-communist rhetoric.

Ky is survived by six children and 14 grandchildren. A date for his funeral has not been announced.