Currently one of the most wanted men in Iraq (the king of clubs in the US's deck of cards), he is believed to be a leading figure behind the resistance attacks against US-led forces and has a $10mn bounty on his head, for his arrest or information leading to his capture.
Born in 1942, near the town of Tikrit, a stronghold and powerbase of former President Saddam Hussein, al-Duri came from humble beginnings with his father eking a living as an ice seller.
Widely considered to be the right-hand man of Saddam Hussein, al-Duri met the future president in the early, formative days of the Baath party and is one of three surviving men - along with the former Iraqi president and Taha Yassin Ramadan, another Iraqi vice-president - who plotted to bring the secular political party to power in a coup in 1968.
After the coup, he held a prominent position in the Baath regime and Revolutionary Command Council (the supreme executive, legislative and judicial authority), presiding over special tribunals that tried opponents and issued death sentences.
A top military commander, he rose to prominence in the past 15 years, earning international recognition during the occupation of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf war in 1991.
Following the war, he was one of the more visible faces of Iraqi diplomacy, frequently sent abroad - especially to neighbouring Arab states - to represent the country's interests.
The path to war
In 2002, at the Beirut Arab summit, al-Duri famously shook hands with the Kuwaiti foreign minister and then embraced the Saudi crown prince, Abd al-Aziz, whose countries had refused to have any official relations with Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.
In September 2002, he chaired the Arab Parliamentary Union forum in Baghdad calling for Arab solidarity in the face of the "American-Zionist threat" against Iraq.
A close confident of Saddam Hussein's, his daughter was briefly married to Uday Hussein, son of the president.
At large, he is suspected of being behind several guerrilla attacks against US occupation forces, as well as allegedly brokering an alliance between pro-Baathist insurgents and Islamists in Iraq.
Four of his nephews were captured by US forces in January of this year. His wife and daughter remain in US custody after their arrest last November.
Some reports have suggested that al-Duri is suffering from leukaemia, lying low and trying to avoid capture.