In the space of a decade, this former Saudi businessman went from being a close CIA ally to becoming the United States’ public enemy number one.
He tirelessly taunted the world’s greatest power from his hide-outs in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nothing predestined young Osama for a career in international terrorism.
Born in 1957 to a wealthy Yemeni family with close links to the monarchy, he was working for the family business when the Saudi secret services asked him to recruit Mujahideen volunteers to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Radical Islam was gaining power in the region, its supporters backed by those keen to fight Communism. It was with Saudi and American money that bin Laden slowly built up his organisation and trained his fighters. The withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 put an end to this, but bin Laden wanted to go further. The allies parted.
The first Gulf War put a nail in the coffin of the relationship between bin Laden and Saudi Arabia.
In February 1993, a bomb attack on the World Trade Centre killed six people. Some people at that time already suspected bin Laden.
The US also blamed him for the deadly attacks five years later against its embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam which claimed 224 lives.
Washington offered a five million dollar reward for anyone who could help capture him, and in 1999, he was added to the FBI’s top ten most wanted list.
But the true turning point came on the 11th of September 2001, when the Twin Towers in New York collapsed after being hit by two planes. Close to 3,000 people were killed. The world was in a state of shock, and the finger of blame was pointed at bin Laden and his organisation, now known as al Qaeda.
While he never directly claimed responsibility for them, bin Laden openly praised which, he said, were the result of the US reeping what it had sowed.
George W Bush’s reaction was immediate: find him, dead or alive. One of the world’s biggest ever manhunts was underway. Washington declared war on international terrorism.
The global order had changed, and in the background, the world’s most wanted man continued to taunt its leaders in sporadic video recordings, until this day.