Alluding to the United States' hunt for him, the al-Qaeda leader stated his determination to avoid capture:
"I swear not to die but a free man."
His death ends the largest manhunt in history that began a decade ago involving thousands of US troops in Afghanistan and tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers in the rugged mountains along the border. Whether reviled as a terrorist and mass murderer or hailed as the champion of oppressed Muslims fighting injustice and humiliation, bin Laden changed the course of history. Challenging the might of the US, the most powerful nation ever, he masterminded a string of attacks against it and then built a global network of allies to wage a war intended to outlive him. The man allegedly behind the suicide hijack attacks of September 11, 2001, was the nemesis of former US President George Bush, who pledged to take him "dead or alive" and whose two terms were dominated by a "war on terror" against his al-Qaeda network founded in 1988.