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Cubans line the streets as Fidel Castro's ashes begin 500-mile final journey

Fidel Castro's ashes begin a 500-mile journey across Cuba. Credit: Reuters

Thousands of Cubans lined the streets to pay their respects to their late leader Fidel Castro as his ashes begin a 500-mile journey across the country.

People waved and chanted "I am Fidel" as the funeral cortege bearing Castro's remains draped in the Cuban flag slowly made its way east on its way to his final resting place in Santiago de Cuba.

The cortege is retracing the steps Castro took to Havana after he defeated Batista's forces in 1959. Credit: Reuters

The second largest city in Cuba is hugely symbolic in Castro's history as it was here Castro's rebels first launched an attack on the US-backed forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1953.

The cortege is retracing the steps Castro took to Havana after he defeated Batista's forces in 1959, where he declared himself Representative of the Rebel Armed Forces of the Presidency.

Castro would go on to rule Cuba for 49 years

A girls holds images of Fidel Castro and current President Raul while awaiting the caravan carrying Castro's ashes in Sancti Spiritus. Credit: Reuters

On Wednesday night, Castro's remains had been kept at a mausoleum in Santa Clara where fellow revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara is interned.

Since Castro's death on Friday Cubans have been paying tribute to their leader.

Castro was cremated on Saturday and at 9am on Monday a 21-gun salute marked the start of a nine-day period of mourning.

Hundreds of thousands gathered in Havana's Revolution Square on Tuesday. Credit: Reuters

Many queued up for hours to pass through a memorial - a photograph of Castro and a display of his medals - in Havana's Revolution Square.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of thousands gathered in the plaza for a four-hour ceremony in which presidents from around the world delivered eulogies praising the revolutionary's record on education and health care.

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