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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 00:53 GMT
Chile's Gen Pinochet dies at 91
Gen Pinochet seen on 25 November at celebrations for his 91st birthday
Gen Pinochet celebrated his 91st birthday last month

Chile's former military leader Augusto Pinochet has died in hospital aged 91. He had been thought to be recovering after a heart attack a week ago.

Gen Pinochet took power in a 1973 coup, and more than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" in his 17-year rule.

He was accused of dozens of human rights abuses as well as fraud but poor health meant he never faced trial.

No state funeral or national mourning has been authorised. He will be buried with military honours on Tuesday.

"The government has authorised flags to fly at half-mast at army facilities," government spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber said.

Thousands of anti-Pinochet protesters took to the streets in the centre of the capital, Santiago, with tear gas and water cannon used to disperse crowds.

Cheering opponents of Gen Pinochet attempted to reach the presidential palace, but found police barring their way.

Sporadic clashes broke out, with Chilean TV showing images of fires burning along one of the city's main avenues.

What saddens me is that this criminal has died without having been sentenced
Hugo Gutierrez
Human rights lawyer

Santiago's military hospital said Gen Pinochet passed away at 1415 local time (1715GMT).

Hospital spokesman Dr Juan Ignacio Vergara said that shortly beforehand, he "suffered grave and unexpected setbacks" requiring him to be moved into intensive care unit.

"We administered all the possible procedures but were not able to resuscitate the general," Dr Vergara said.

"He died surrounded by his family."

After last week's acute heart attack, the general underwent a procedure to unblock an artery, and received the last rites from a Catholic priest.

I hope my country can find peace after his death. Reconciliation is the key
Veronica, Santiago, Chile

But in the days afterwards his condition had been thought to be improving.

Chilean newspaper La Tercera de la Hora Online says dozens of supporters who had been keeping a vigil outside the hospital were weeping and praying following the general's death.

It is expected they will be joined by other supporters as the news spreads.

'Loved by many'

Opponents have expressed anger that Gen Pinochet died without justice being done over the charges that had been brought.

Pinochet supporters grieve outside the military hospital in Santiago
Despite his human rights record, the general had staunch supporters

"What saddens me is that this criminal has died without having been sentenced and I believe the responsibility the state bears in this has to be considered", human rights lawyer Hugo Gutierrez told La Tercera Online.

Despite his human rights record, many Chileans loved him and said he saved the country from Marxism.

But even many loyal supporters abandoned him after it became clear in 2004 that he had stolen about $27m in secret offshore bank accounts that were under investigation at the time of his death, the BBC's Daniel Schweimler says.

There were also allegations that Gen Pinochet and his son Marco Antonio Pinochet made money from cocaine smuggling, charges which the family denied.

'Political responsibility'

In September 1973, Gen Pinochet led the armed forces in a dramatic coup against the democratically elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende.

Close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour towards anybody, that I love my country above all else
Recent Pinochet statement

The violence of the uprising and the oppression that followed shook the world. He went on to become one of South America's best-known military rulers of the 1970s and 80s.

Earlier in November, Gen Pinochet was placed under house arrest over the abduction of two people in 1973.

The charges - the latest in a series - related to the Caravan of Death, a military operation to remove opponents of his rule.

In a statement read by his wife on his 91st birthday, Gen Pinochet said he accepted "political responsibility" for acts committed during his rule.

"Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancour towards anybody, that I love my country above all else," his statement said.

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