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Vast crowds pay tribute to Vietnam war hero General Giap

Mourners pay respects as Vietnamese soldiers transport the artillery cart carrying the coffin of General Vo Nguyen Giap Reuters/Kham

Huge crowds turned out on Sunday to watch the body of General Vo Nguyen Giap, the military leader in Vietnam's wars with the French and the Americans, being driven through the streets of Hanoi before being flown to its place of burial in the village where he was born.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Vietnamese lined the streets to pay tribute to Giap, who died this month at the age of 102, on Sunday.

On Saturday Communist Party leaders, foreign delegations and, finally, ordinary Vietnamese filed in front of Giap's coffin to pay tribute to the man who beat the French at the decisive battle of Dien Bien Phu and is credited with being the architect of the defeat of the South Vietnamese government and its US allies in the 1960s and 70s.

Although Giap had been sidelined for the last 30 years of his life and criticised corruption and other aspects of government policy, party leaders declared two days of national mourning this weekend, playing up his role as a national liberation hero.

Giap "is the people's general and his name will remain forever engraved in the history of the nation" and he had "important opinions on the major problems of the country", declared Communist Party leader Nguyen Pho Trong on television before the funeral cortege set off for Hanoi airport.

The coffin was to be flown 500 kilometres to the village in Quang Binh where Giap was born province.