The most intense manhunt in history finally caught up with Osama bin Laden, but his life's story will be told many different ways by different people. Reviled in the West as the personification of evil, bin Laden was admired and even revered by some fellow Muslims who embraced his vision of unending jihad against the United States and Arab governments he deemed as infidels.
Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia in 1954. He became known as the most pious of the sons among his wealthy father's 54 children.
Bin Laden's money and preaching inspired the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed just under 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, and forever ripped a hole in America's feeling of security in the world.
His actions set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and a clandestine war against extreme Islamic adherents that touched scores of countries on every continent but Antarctica. America's entire intelligence apparatus was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home.
Bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said Sunday. A small team of Americans carried out the attack and took custody of bin Laden's remains, Obama said.
Bin Laden's al-Qaida organization has also been blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 231 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful, some foiled
Perhaps as significant was his ability — even from hiding — to inspire a new generation of terrorists to murder in his name. Most of al-Qaida's top lieutenants have been killed or captured in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, and intelligence officials in Europe and Asia say they now see a greater threat from homegrown radical groups energized by bin Laden's cause.
Al-Qaida is not thought to have provided logistical or financial support to the group of North African Muslims who pulled off the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, Spain — which killed 191 people — but they were certainly inspired by its dream of worldwide jihad. Likewise, no link has been established between al-Qaida and the four British Muslim suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005, but few believe the attack would have taken place had bin Laden not aroused the passions of young Muslim radicals the world over.
The war in Iraq — justified in part by erroneous intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein had both weapons of mass destruction and a link to al-Qaida — has become the cauldron in which the world's next generation of terrorists are honing their skills.
While scant evidence has emerged of a link between Saddam and bin Laden's inner circle, there is no doubt that al-Qaida took advantage of the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq — helping to drag the United States into a quagmire that led to the death of some 5,000 American troops, and many scores of thousands of Iraqis.
Indeed, bin Laden's legacy is a world still very much on edge.
Frightening terms like dirty bomb, anthrax and weapons of mass destruction have become staples of the global vocabulary; and others like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition have fueled a burning anger in the Muslim world.