MOSCOW: Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov died Friday, the government announced, ending more than 25 years of his iron-fisted rule in the Central Asian nation with no clear successor lined up.
"Dear compatriots, it is with huge grief in our hearts that we announce to you the death of our dear president," a state TV presenter said, reading an official statement.
Authorities said Karimov, 78, was pronounced dead at 8:55 pm local time (1555 GMT) following days of speculation that authorities were delaying the confirmation of his death after he reportedly suffered a stroke over the weekend.
The strongman's funeral will be held in his home city of Samarkand on Saturday as the country begins three days of mourning, the statement said, with Uzbekistan now facing its greatest period of uncertainty in its post-Soviet history.
Loyalist Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev will head the committee charged with organising his funeral, suggesting that he could be in line to take over from Karimov.
Karimov's youngest daughter Lola wrote on Facebook that "he has left us... I am struggling for words, I can't believe it myself".
Long condemned by rights groups for brutally crushing dissent, Karimov has ruled landlocked Uzbekistan since before it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Born on January 30, 1938, Karimov was raised in an orphanage in the ancient city of Samarkand, before studying mechanical engineering and economics and rising up the ranks of the Communist Party to become head of Soviet Uzbekistan in 1989.