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Castro's ashes begin final journey across Cuba

Thousands are watching as Fidel Castro's ashes begin a four-day journey to his final resting place. A military vehicle is making a 950-kilometer (590-mile) journey to the city of Santiago de Cuba from Havana.

Draped in the red, white and blue national flag, Castro's ashes left Havana on Wednesday following two days of tributes in the Cuban capital for the country's late revolutionary leader.

The coffin containing his ashes was sealed in a glass case and placed on a green trailer, pulled by a military vehicle.

The cargo was met by thousands of waving flags and shouts of "Long may he live!" as it made its way out of the streets of the capital.

Along the city's historic Malecon esplanade, the funeral procession passed an almost completely silent crowd, many of whom took cellphone videos or photos as keepsakes.

'Viva Fidel!'

Some Cubans slept on sidewalks overnight for a chance to bid goodbye to their long-time president, who died on Friday night, aged 90.

"We came to see the ashes because he made history," said Cecilio Salgado, 58, who traveled from Havana's outskirts to bid farewell. "He deserves a tribute like this. He is the best thing that could have happened to us."

Castro, who ruled Cuba for half a century until 2008 and built a Communist state on America's doorstep, was cremated on Saturday.

His ashes are taking the reverse route that his band of guerrilla fighters took after defeating dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Castro's rebels moved from the eastern town of Santiago de Cuba to Havana, stopping in Castro's home region and other cities.

Castro's ashes

Castro's ashes have begun a 900 kilometer journey across the island to his final resting place

His final resting place will be where the first shots in the Cuban Revolution were fired. His ashes are due to be interred on Sunday, ending the nine-day mourning period for the man who ruled the country for nearly 50 years.

While Castro was admired by many, especially in Latin America and Africa for challenging Washington's dominance, others vilified him as a dictator who ruined the economy with his brand of socialism and denied Cubans basic human rights.

Millions of Cubans fled overseas, mostly to the US, during his five decades in office.

Snubbed by many countries

Several world leaders say they won't attend Castro's funeral commemoration, including US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of China, Britain and India will also stay away.

But on Tuesday night, the presidents of Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa, along with leaders of a host of smaller nations, paid their respects to Castro at a massive rally at Havana's Revolution Plaza.

"He more than fulfilled his mission on this earth," Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told the crowd. "Few lives have been so complete, so bright. He has left unconquered."

Watch video 01:42

Cubans bid farewell to Fidel Castro

mm/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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