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Former Indonesian President Wahid dies

A supporter of former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid lights joss sticks during a vigil on Wednesday in Yogyakarta.
A supporter of former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid lights joss sticks during a vigil on Wednesday in Yogyakarta.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wahid was a popular religious leader
  • He contested the 1999 presidential race
  • He was known for injecting humor into his religious sermons and political speeches
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Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has died, his family told CNN. He was 69.

Wahid, affectionately known as Gus Dur, died Wednesday evening as a result of heart problems, his family said. A news conference was planned later.

Wahid, who was also a popular religious leader, had been ill for several weeks and had been hospitalized a few days ago. He had been in frail health for many years and was partially blind and unable to walk.

Before becoming Indonesia's fourth president, Wahid was the revered leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, with more than 30 million members.

No one took Wahid seriously when he contested the presidential race in October 1999, mainly because of his poor health. He was seen, however, as a candidate of compromise, and the Central Axis, a coalition of Muslim forces, lobbied in his favor.

However, Indonesians -- including his onetime supporters -- were frustrated by his erratic and chaotic leadership. He was at odds with the nation's parliament, which eventually forced him to step down.

Wahid was known for injecting humor into his religious sermons and political speeches.

CNN's Atika Shubert contributed to this report.