Anti-ISIS 'sheikh sniper' killed in battle

Iraqi sniper Abu Tahsin al-Salhi in a photo taken in April this year. The veteran fighter boasted about killing at least 320 ISIS fighters.
Iraqi sniper Abu Tahsin al-Salhi in a photo taken in April this year. The veteran fighter boasted about killing at least 320 ISIS fighters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BASRA (Iraq) • A veteran fighter known as "the sheikh of snipers" has been killed in Iraq's battle to retake the town of Hawijah from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), his paramilitary force said.

Mr Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, who took part in conflicts dating back to the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and said he had gunned down at least 320 ISIS extremists, died last Friday.

He was killed as he advanced on Hawijah in north-west Iraq, said Mr Ahmad al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi alliance of mostly Shi'ite militias fighting alongside government forces against the last extremist bastions.

At Mr Abu Tahsin's funeral last Saturday near the southern port city of Basra, his close friend Ahmad Ali Hussein said the marksman was known by comrades as "the sheikh of snipers" or "hawk eye".

A grey-bearded hulk of a man who drove an offroad motorbike and wore a black-and-white chequered scarf and fingerless mittens, Mr Abu Tahsin was inseparable from his Austrian-manufactured Steyr rifle.

In a Hashed video, the 63-year-old warrior gives a rundown of his career as a sniper, starting in 1973 when he was part of an Iraqi brigade fighting on Syria's Golan Heights.

He also fought in late dictator Saddam Hussein's 1980-1988 war against Iran, his 1990 invasion of Kuwait and against US troops who toppled Saddam in 2003, before turning his sights on ISIS.

"Today, I gunned down two (ISIS fighters). That's ridiculous - the minimum for me is four," he says in the video. In anti-ISIS battles in 2015, "I killed 173 of them, and now I'm at 320".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Anti-ISIS 'sheikh sniper' killed in battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe