A reclusive figure with a love of poetry, Ahmed Abdi Godane became a feared jihadist, running assassination and bomb squads in Somalia.
He rose to the helm of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in 2008 after a US air strike killed his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro in a remote village in southern Somalia.
Mr Godane's ascent to power surprised some observers as he came from the breakaway northern region of Somaliland.
"His rise to power within al-Shabab is unparalleled and in many ways counterintuitive in the history of Somalia's political and military formations," Rashid Abdi, an East Africa analyst who specialises on al-Shabab, told the BBC.
"How did someone with no clan constituency in southern Somalia accumulate such powers and manage to command such following in a tribal country where clan loyalties and affiliation trump everything else?",,more