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Suharto's body taken for burial

world Updated: Jan 28, 2008 11:29 IST

The body of former Indonesian president Suharto was taken from his residence on Monday in central Jakarta to be flown to the family's burial complex Astana Giribangun in Karanganyar regency in central Java, where he is to be buried next to his wife Siti Suhartinah, who died in 1996.

Suharto, a former five-star general, died of multiple organ failure on Sunday at Jakarta's Pertamina Hospital, where he had been treated for 23 days. He was 86.

A small military ceremony plus a traditional Javanese ritual by members of his family was held in front of his residence before the coffin, which was brought out by eight soldiers, was flown to central Java via an air force base in Jakarta.

Thousands of Indonesians lined streets all the way from his residence in central Jakarta to Halim Perdanakusuma air force base in east Jakarta, waving when the entourage passed them.

There has been round-the clock television coverage of the "smiling general" who led the world's largest Muslim-majority country for 32 years.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who will lead the military ceremony, has arrived in Karanganyar regency in central Java.

Hundreds of dignitaries and old friends have flocked to the burial complex in central Java to pay their last respects to a man both admired as one of Asia's longest-serving leaders and reviled as one of the continent's worst kleptocrats of the 20th century.

Millions nationwide held prayer services and cited verses from the Koran for Suharto, who died on Sunday. The 86-year-old had been rushed to Jakarta's Pertamina Hospital on January 4.

"My father has returned to God," said Suharto's eldest daughter Siti Hadijanti Rukmana in a news conference at the hospital.

Seven days of mourning was announced and the government ordered the nation's red-and-white flag to be lowered to half-mast across the country for its duration.

The former strongman was a ruthless dictator whose success presiding over huge economic progress was overshadowed by his legacy of bloodshed, human rights abuses and corruption on a colossal scale.