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Iraq's famed 'sheikh of snipers' killed in battle for IS-held al-Hawija

Abu Tahsin al-Salhi was a veteran of several conflicts in the Middle East [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 September, 2017

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A veteran sniped from Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi militias famed for having reportedly killing over 300 Islamic State group militants has been killed in the battle for Hawija.

A veteran Iraqi fighter known as "the sheikh of snipers" has been killed while fighting with pro-government forces attempting to retake the Islamic State-held town of Hawija, his militia announced Saturday.

Abu Tahsin al-Salhi, who had fought in conflicts as far back as the 1973 Arab-Israeli war,  was reportedly gunned down at least 320 IS fighters in his recent career.

The 63-year-old was also a veteran of the 1980-1988 war against Iran, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and in Saddam Hussein's army that fought against US troops in 2003.

Having turned his sights on the IS group in recent years, he fought as a sniper in the ranks of the Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-government - mostly Shia - militia force.

"Today, I gunned down two of them (IS fighters). That's ridiculous - the minimum for me is four," al-Salhi was recorded as saying in a Hashd al-Shaabi video. "I killed 173 of them, and now I'm at 320". 

At his funeral on Saturday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, fellow Hashd al-Shaabi member Ahmad Ali Hussein described al-Salhi as being famously known as "the sheikh of snipers" or "hawk eye".

Having already captured Mosul and Tal Afar from the IS group this year, Iraqi pro-government forces are advancing on Hawija, a region notoriously regarded as being one of Iraq's most lawless areas.

The Hawija enclave is one of just two areas of Iraq still held by IS, along with a stretch of the Euphrates Valley near the border with Syria.

The latest offensive against the militants comes just hours after the Islamic State group published an alleged recording from its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi via its propaganda outlet al-Furqan media.

The groups have also made advances in Syria.

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