Cuba’s former president and leader of the Communist revolution Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90, AP reported quoting the nation’s official television channel on Saturday. The leader was suffering from a gastrointestinal illness. Raul Castro, who announced his brother’s death, said he will be cremated on Saturday, AFP reported. Cuba declared nine days of national mourning for the leader.

Castro ruled the country for almost 50 years before handing over the reigns of the one-party state to his brother Raul in 2008. The iconic leader drew praise and support from his compatriots. He was praised for giving “Cuba back to the people”. He as often critcised for his autocratic rule. His death is being celebrated by thousands of Cuban exiles in Miami, The Guardian reported. In 1959, he overthrew United States-backed Fulgencio Batista and defied US leaders through out his rule. Fidel Castro reportedly survived several assassination attempts.

Born on August 13, 1926, Fidel Castro Ruz became a rebel in 1953 with an attack on the Moncada military barracks in the city of Santiago. The revolutionary leader’s death follows a thawing of relations with the United States, that had imposed a decades-long embargo on the nation. His rule was marked by the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis the next year which had almost escalated into a nuclear war.

He supported political uprisings in Latin American countries in the 1960s, and deployed Cuban troops to Africa to fight Western-backed regimes in the 1970s. His commitment to socialism resonated in his rallying chant, “socialism or death”.

In the last few years, Fidel Castro restricted his public presence to rare appearances and his columns in the party magazine, Granma. In April, he made a rare address to his Communist Party congress, BBC reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter offered his condolences to the citizens of Cuba over the loss of “India’s great friend”. Similarly, Chinese President Xi Jinping read out a message on the country’s main TV channel. “The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade. Comrade Castro will live forever, he said. Apart from political leaders, Catholic church head Pope Francis also conveyed his condolences to Raul Castro. “I express to you my sentiments of grief,” said the pope in a message.