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Mandela's body cheered at Qunu ahead of Sunday burial

Source: Reuters - Sat, 14 Dec 2013 03:11 PM
Author: Reuters
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(Fixes typo in para two)

* Coffin flown from Pretoria after ANC send-off

* Sunday's state funeral will centre on family

* Selected guests include Prince Charles, Jessie Jackson

By Ed Cropley

QUNU, South Africa, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The body of Nelson Mandela arrived on Saturday at his ancestral home of Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape, where it was greeted by singing, dancing local residents ahead of the anti-apartheid leader's state funeral set for the following day.

As police and military helicopters buzzed overheard, the hearse carrying the remains of South Africa's first black president rolled with a police escort into the hamlet of scattered homes lying between green pastures.

Delighted residents broke into the South African national anthem as the cortege appeared on the road from Mthatha airport, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg.

Cheering crowds had lined parts of the road to pay their respects as the black hearse passed.

Mandela, who died on Dec. 5 aged 95, will be buried in his family homestead in Qunu on Sunday after a state funeral combining military pomp and traditional rites of Mandela's Xhosa abaThembu clan.

It will be attended by family members, national leaders and foreign guests including Britain's Prince Charles and U.S. civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson.

Earlier, Mandela's body was flown with a fighter jet escort from Waterkloof airforce base in Pretoria, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had bade a formal farewell to "Comrade Mandela", its most historic leader. (Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Ed Stoddard)

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