Iraq’s ‘sheikh sniper,’ who fought IDF in ’73, killed in battle
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Iraq’s ‘sheikh sniper,’ who fought IDF in ’73, killed in battle

Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, 63, who began combat career on the Golan Heights in Yom Kippur War, says he killed 320 Islamic State members

Iraqi Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, left, a veteran sniper from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units), who boasted about killing at least 320 Islamic State group fighters, seen during the fight for the Iraqi city of Mosul, April 26, 2017. (AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)
Iraqi Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, left, a veteran sniper from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units), who boasted about killing at least 320 Islamic State group fighters, seen during the fight for the Iraqi city of Mosul, April 26, 2017. (AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)

A veteran Iraqi militiaman known as “the sheikh of snipers” was killed over the weekend during a battle to retake the town of Hawija from the Islamic State group, his paramilitary force announced Saturday.

Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, who took part in conflicts dating back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War and said he had gunned down at least 320 IS jihadists, died on Friday.

He was killed as he advanced on Hawija in northwest Iraq, said Ahmad al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi alliance mostly of Shiite militias fighting alongside government forces against the last jihadist bastions.

At his funeral on Saturday near the southern port city of Basra, close friend Ahmad Ali Hussein said the marksman was widely known by comrades as “the sheikh of snipers” or “hawk eye.”

Iraqi mourners carry the coffin of Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, a veteran sniper from the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization units) who boasted about killing at least 320 Islamic State group fighters, during his funeral on in the southern city of Basra, September 30, 2017. (AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI)

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

In a video put out by his militant group, also knows the Popular Mobilization Forces, the 63-year-old warrior said first got experience as a sniper on the battlefield in 1973 when he was part of an Iraqi brigade fighting against Israel on Syria’s Golan Heights.

Iraqi expeditionary forces joined Syria several days into the Yom Kippur War, trying to stave off an Israeli counterattack that eventually pushed deep into the Syrian Golan.

Abu Tahsin also mentions fighting in south Lebanon, though he does not say in what capacity.

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 IS.

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

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