Considered to be the right-hand man of Saddam Hussein, al-Duri was one of the most wanted men in Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, portrayed as the King of Clubs in the US-military deck of cards of former government members.
He was believed to be a leading figure behind the attacks against US-led forces and had a $10 million bounty on his head.
From the early days of the occupation, US military commanders suspected al-Duri was using Saddam's hidden cash to pay for attacks on US troops.
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.
Al-Duri first met Saddam 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 government, presiding over special tribunals that tried opponents and issued death sentences.
A top military commander, he played a key role in the occupation of Kuwait and subsequent Gulf war in 1991.
Following the war, he was one of the more visible faces of Iraqi diplomacy.
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.
A close confident of Saddam Hussein's, his daughter was briefly married to Uday Hussein, son of the president.
At large after the US invasion, he was suspected of being behind several guerrilla attacks against US occupation forces, as well as allegedly brokering an alliance between pro-Baathist fighters 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.
As recently as 5 October of this year, he called for escalating the insurgency in a letter attributed to him and published by the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
Al-Duri's trail went hot and cold over the first year and a half following the April 2003 US-led invasion.
In December 2003, US troops launched a massive assault on the town of Hawijah, an fighter stronghold west of the oil centre of Kirkuk, on a tip that al-Duri was receiving a blood transfusion there.The paratroopers came away empty-handed.
One month earlier, US soldiers detained al-Duri's daughter and one of his wives in a raid in Samarra, another fighter stronghold, and even used air raids to destroy two of his homes near the town.
US commanders had repeatedly said that al-Duri's age and state of health made him an unlikely underground guerrilla leader - saying that he acted as the banker and brains behind attacks rather than a field operative.