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South Africa Marks 40th Anniversary of Steve Biko's Death

  • Associated Press

FILE - Former South African President Nelson Mandela, left, is pictured on a mural with South African apartheid freedom fighter Steve Biko, right, in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, March 10, 2013.

South African leaders are marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, the anti-apartheid activist and black consciousness leader who died in police custody after being severely beaten.

Leading politicians on Tuesday hailed Biko as a symbol of the fight against racial oppression in South Africa, which at the time of Biko's 1977 killing was under white minority rule. President Jacob Zuma is laying a wreath in honor of Biko at the Pretoria prison where he died.

The death of 30-year-old Biko ignited international outrage and inspired a hit song by musician Peter Gabriel. Actor Denzel Washington starred as Biko in the 1987 film "Cry Freedom."

Biko, who advocated black self-reliance, was not a member of the African National Congress, the main anti-apartheid movement and current ruling party.

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