Former South African president and human rights icon Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95, NBC News reported.

Mandela's death was confirmed by current South African president Jacob Zuma, who was quoted as saying, "Although we knew that this day would come nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss."

Update, 5:19 p.m. EST: NBC also reported that a state funeral will be held for Mandela. Zuma also ordered that flags across South Africa be flown at half-mast until the funeral is held.

In a statement from the White House Thursday evening, U.S. President Barack Obama said Mandela's legacy was a free South Africa at peace with itself. Obama also noted that his very first political action was an protest against the country's Apartheid policies, the cause to which Mandela devoted most of his life.

"I would study his words and his writings," Obama said. "The day he was released from prison, he gave me a sense of what people could do when guided by their hopes, and not by their fears."

Obama, who referred to Mandela by his clan nickname "Madiba" throughout his remarks, said Mandela's journey from prisoner to president embodied the promise that human beings could improve over time.

"He no longer belongs to us," Obama said. "He belongs to the ages."

Update, 6:14 p.m. EST: The full transcript of Obama's remarks has been posted online.

NBC also posted a video retrospective on Mandela's life, which can be seen below.

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[Image via Agence France-Presse]