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Nelson Mandela's death: World mourns 'hero,' 'icon,' 'father'

World leaders, politicians, celebrities and public figures all across the globe mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and South Africa's first black president, who died Thursday at home at the age of 95.

Statements on his passing poured in from around the world, with President Barack Obama at the White House saying he was one of the countless millions of people who drew inspiration from Mandela's life and his "fierce dignity."

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," Obama said, visibly emotional. "Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us," he added, referring to Mandela by his affectionately used clan name.

South African President Jacob Zuma first announced Mandela's death, saying, "He is now resting. He is now at peace."

Zuma added, "Our nation has lost his greatest son. Our people have lost their father."

Mandela's longtime friend and the first black Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, also paid tribute at a church service.

"Do we want to set up a memorial for him?" he asked the congregation. "I think he wouldn't want something in stone. Ultimately he would want us, South Africans to be his memorial."

"Thank you for what he has enabled us to know what we can become," he added. "Help us to become that kind of nation."

Newspapers across the world splashed the news and photos of Mandela across their front pages, dubbing him "Tata" -- or "father" -- in South Africa, "icon of icons" in Ireland, a "colossus" in Britain and a "hero" in Brazil.

In the United States, former presidents from Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter to Geoge W. Bush paid tribute. President George H. W. Bush said in a statement that the revered South African icon "was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country."

His son, President George W. Bush, said Mandela was "one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time," who "bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example."

Carter echoed those feelings in a statement: "His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide."

"I will never forget my friend Madiba," former President Bill Clinton tweeted, while Secretary of State John Kerry said Mandela "will be remembered as a pioneer for peace."

"Mandela's strength as a teacher is that he not only advised us what to do, he showed us how," former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was held under house arrest for 15 years, said she was grieving for a man who stood for human rights and equality.

"He made us all understand that nobody should be penalized for the color of their skin or for the circumstances in which he is born," she said. "He also made us understand we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions."

Chinese President Xi Jinping also lauded Mandela as "a world-renowned statesman," state news agency Xinhua said. He added that the Chinese people will always remember Mandela's extraordinary contributions to, "the cause of human progress." 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who witnessed the former British colony transform into a democracy after decades of violence under apartheid rule, said she was "deeply saddened" by Nelson Mandela's death. She added that he "worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today."

Upon leaving the premiere for the movie "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" that he attended with his wife Duchess Kate in London, the queen's grandson Prince William said the news of Mandela's death was "extremely sad and tragic."

"We're just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was," he said.

Actor Idris Elba, who portrayed Mandela in that movie, said he was stunned by the news. "We have lost one of the greatest human beings to have walked this earth, I only feel honored to be associated with him," Elba said.

Mandela's two youngest daughters were attending the film premiere when they received word of his death, and left immediately.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said his name was "always associated with the fight against the oppression of his people and with overcoming the apartheid regime. Not even years in prison could break Nelson Mandela or make him.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened by the passing of the former president, whom he described as "a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration."

Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation works to fight poverty and AIDS in developing countries including South Africa, also said it had been "an honor" to meet Mandela and that they had "left each visit inspired and more optimistic about the opportunity to improve the lives of the poor throughout the world."

"From prisoner to president, Nelson Mandela was tireless in his pursuit of Equality and justice for all people," they said in a statement.

"His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens," boxing legend Muhammad Ali said in a statement. He was famously pictured throwing punches with the leader in a mock fight.

"Nelson Mandela showed us how to love rather than hate, not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence, but because he learned that love would do a better job," Irish musician Bono said.

"As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go," said actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Mandela in the movie "Invictus."

"He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness," musician Paul Simon said.

Oprah Winfrey said she was honored to have had the chance to meet Mandela. "He was everything you've ever heard and more -- humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time," Winfrey said in a statement.

Human rights advocate Martin Luther King III said, "Through his and his people's long walk to freedom, Mr. Mandela's constant fight for equality personified, what my father often said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

An emotional scene emerged outside of Mandela's house, where a multi-racial crowd gathered late into the night, singing liberation songs, chanting and waving flags.

Johannesburg resident Hamsa Moosa, 31, told The Associated Press he "wouldn't be free" if not for Mandela.

"I feel relieved on his soul that finally he is able to rest, finally he is able to be in a peaceful situation," Ouma Mpela of Cape Town, said.

Thirty-two-year-old Johannesburg resident Salmon Matlou said, "I don't know what's going to happen but I'm scared because we like him so much and now he's gone."

"It feels like it's my father who has died. He was such a good man, who had good values the nation could look up to. He was a role model unlike our leaders of today," said Annah Khokhozela, 37, a nanny, speaking in Johannesburg.

The African National Congress, the country's governing political party, said in a statement: "Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions; here and abroad."

Mandela spent 27 years in prison and led his country to democracy. Though he was in power for only five years as his country's first black president, his moral influence earned him the praise and respect of people all over the world.

"His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better," Obama said.