By the relatively young age of 33, Hakimullah Mehsud had acquired all the trappings of a Taliban warrior: a fearsome record in the battlefield, a $5 million price tag on his head, and numerous reports of his death that had proved premature.
Loosely in command of some 30 militant groups in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, the boyish-looking militant was responsible for some of the Taliban's most damaging strikes against Western interests in the region, organising repeated attacks against Nato convoys heading through the Khyber Pass region to neighbouring Afghanistan.
Washington suspected him of helping to mastermind the single deadliest strike against the CIA in the last quarter century, when a Jordanian suicide bomber, posing as an al-Qaeda informant, blew himself up at a CIA base near Khost in Afghanistan in 2009, killing seven CIA agents and wounding another six.
The attack on the CIA base was believed to be in revenge for a US drone strike that killed Baitullah Mehsud, the previous overall leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Hakimullah took over from him, having distinguished himself in battle by leading a raid that captured 300 Pakistani soldiers in 2007.
His youthful looks and fondness for the media — he was a regular caller to the BBC's Urdu Service — went hand in hand with a fierce anger and a visceral loathing of both the United States and Pakistan's government, which he vowed to replace with an Islamic one. He also had a keen sense of showmanship.
In 2007, he terrified a BBC crew who came to interview him by demonstrating his skills with a Toyota pick-up truck, hurtling around razor-sharp mountain bends and then pulling up just inches short of a precipitous drop.
Only last month, he gave an interview to one of the corporation's local journalists, in which he said he was willing to engage in peace talks with the Pakistani government as long as US drone strikes were stopped.
He denied being responsible for terror attacks on Pakistani civilians. The interview was the first time he had surfaced publicly in more than a year, and was proof that several previous claims by both Western and Pakistani intelligence sources that he had been killed in a drone strike were untrue. But with hindsight, it seems the US was closing in all the time.