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South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, who spent many years imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela, has died at the age of 87.

Kathrada’s foundation announced Tuesday he died at a Johannesburg hospital after a short illness following brain surgery.

His activism against white-minority rule in South Africa led to his 1964 conviction in a trial that sent Kathrada to prison along with a group of African National Congress figures that included Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki.

Kathrada spent more than 26 years behind bars, including 18 years at the notorious Robben Island prison. In 2013, he led then-U.S. President Barack Obama on a tour of the site.

Kathrada had also been a vocal critic of South African President Jacob Zuma, including writing an open letter last year calling on Zuma to resign.

« This is a great loss to the ANC, the broader liberation movement and South Africa as a whole, » said Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.