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Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister, dies aged 91

Lee Kuan Yew, the man often hailed as modern Singapore's "founding father," has died at the age of 91. He was the country's first prime minister, spending more than three decades in office.

"Mr. Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3:18 a.m.," the government said in a statement issued early on Monday (local time).

"Harry" Lee, as he was known locally, became the country's first prime minister in 1959 and was in power for over three decades. He's broadly credited with establishing the Southeast Asian state as one of the world's richest countries on a per capita GDP basis during his time in power.

Lee was admitted to hospital in early February with severe pneumonia, read a statement from the office of the current leader, his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong.

"Arrangements for the public to pay respects and for the funeral proceedings will be announced later," the statement added.

'Great man, great legacy'

Singapore's leader from 1959, when Britain granted Singapore self-rule, to 1990, Lee led the country to independence in 1965.

Prime Minister Lee used his Facebook page to announce his father's death. Messages of condolence soon flooded in: "Great man, great legacy. The world is poorer by his passing," Kasise Ricky Peprah wrote.

"He is one of the greatest leaders of the world. He contributed a lot for his nation and the region. RIP, sir!," Kyaw Swar said of the leader, often referred to simply as "LKY."

Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University, told news agency AFP that Lee's death "marks the end of an era and then raises the question of how Singapore is going to go from here."

jlw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)