Madeleine Albright, first female US Secretary of State, has died aged 84

Her family confirmed the heartbreaking news on Twitter

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Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has died aged 84.

Ms Albright's family confirmed the news on Twitter, adding that she died from cancer.

The statement read: "We are heartbroken to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the 64th Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that position, passed away earlier today. The cause was cancer.

"She was surrounded by family and friends. We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend."

Ms Albright, born Maria Jana Korbelova, was a native of Prague who came to the United States as a refugee in 1948, the statement added.

Madeleine Albright has died aged 84
Madeleine Albright has died aged 84

It continued: "She rose to the heights of American policy-making, receiving the Presidential medal of Freedom in 2012, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

"A tireless champion of democracy and human rights, she was at the time of her death a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, part of Dentons Global Advisors and chair of Albright Capital Management."

She served as the 64th US Secretary of State under Bill Clinton's administration between 1997 and 2001.

She also took up positions as President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, chair of the National Democratic Institute, chair of the US Defence Policy Board and an author.

The statement went on to say: "She founded the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College, served as a lifetime trustee of The Aspen Institute, and was a member of the chapter of the Washington National Cathedral."

Tributes have begun to pour in for Ms Albright, with former tennis player Billie-Jean King saying: "I’ve had the honour of spending time with her over the years.

"She possessed a brilliant mind & a trailblazing spirit. My deepest sympathies go out to her loved ones."