Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Friday, 22 February 2008

Fidel Castro: A life in pictures

Castro as a schoolboy

Fidel Castro was born in 1926 to a wealthy sugar planter. He turned to revolutionary politics as a young man.

Fidel Castro among 22 Cuban exiles arrested for plotting the assassination of President Fulgencio Batista, picture taken Mexico City. Che Guevara sits second from left.

After two years in jail for mounting a failed coup, he went into exile in Mexico. (Castro is standing on right of woman in white.)

Castro victorious after the Cuban revolution

Castro finally assumed power in Cuba on New Year's Day, 1959, after ousting Fulgencio Batista.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro, lower right, sits inside a tank near Playa Giron, Cuba, during the Bay of Pigs invasion

In 1961, Castro led his troops against 1,500 Cuban exiles. The exiles were supported by the CIA, who landed in the Bay of Pigs with the purpose of ousting his government.

US President John F Kennedy

Perhaps Castro's biggest test came in 1962, when US President Kennedy warned him to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba.

Castro with Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev

In the end, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Castro removed the missiles, and the threat of nuclear war was averted.

Playing baseball

He enjoyed sports, even the US game of baseball, playing here at a teachers' college in the Sierra Maestra in 1962.

Castro making an impassioned speech

Many liberal Cubans considered him an oppressive dictator.

Cubans on a homemade raft

Thousands fled their homeland for the US, often on dangerous makeshift rafts.

Castro in his office, 2001

But Fidel Castro retained enough public support to become one of the world's longest-serving leaders.

Fidel Castro is shown on television, talking on the telephone

After intestinal surgery in 2006, he handed day-to-day power to his brother Raul. Then he made only rare recorded appearances, before stepping down in February 2008.

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