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“The world's deadliest sniper” — a Canadian veteran who has been fighting on the front lines in Ukraine — is alive, despite recent Russian reports of his death.
Wali, a 40-year-old sniper who has asked that his full name be withheld, is recuperating after a possible Covid-19 infection. Aside from this, he confirmed to The National, he doesn’t have a “scratch” on him.
While on the front line in the Kyiv region, Wali and his team were hit by a Russian attack but he was ultimately unharmed.
Rumours on social media began to swirl, however, with several pro-Russian accounts reporting that he had been killed in action.
“Canadian sniper Wali dubbed 'the wold's deadliest sniper' killed by Russian forces just 20 minutes after going into action in Mauripol,” said one typo-riddled tweet.
Wali said he was actually hundreds of kilometres away from the besieged city of Mariupol at the time he was reportedly killed.
“I never saw Mariupol in my entire life,” he told The National, speaking from an undisclosed location.
The sniper, a former member of Canada’s Royal 22nd Regiment, a renowned legion of mostly French-Canadian soldiers, said he only heard of his demise when he returned from the front.
“I was the last person to learn about it,” he said with a chuckle. “So, you know, truth can be boring, or it can be horrible and in that case, it was just boring and the boring part was that I didn't have any cell phone [at the front].”
Much has been made about Wali’s pedigree, but the Quebec native, an Afghanistan war veteran who also fought ISIS in Syria, dismissed rumours that he was responsible for the longest confirmed kill shot in history.
The identity of the sniper behind 3,540-metre shot in 2017 has never been released. Officials said the sniper was from an elite Canadian special forces unit, which Wali was not part of.
“I'm just a good soldier among other good soldiers,” he said. “I don't want to steal the glory of the sniper who did that shot.”
Wali said he had a few close calls in his first week on the front line but that he had yet to fire a single shot from his Sako TRG 42 sniper rifle.
“We had some major engagement, though, with lots of bullets,” he told The National.
“But when you're a sniper, you're not like throwing bullets in every window all the time. Right? You wait for a nice opportunity, which I did not have.”
He felt compelled to leave his wife, his infant son and his comfortable job as a computer programmer back in Canada to take up arms in Ukraine out of a sense of duty.
“We have to stop it — it's not acceptable,” he said of Russia’s invasion.
He is one of thousands of foreign fighters who have rushed to Ukraine's defence since the Russian invasion began on February 24, but few have garnered as much attention.
Wali vowed to keep fighting, despite his reported brush with death.
“When I feel OK, it's good, or the war is over, then all right, I will leave and I will start coding again,” he said.
That day may not be far off. He said Russian forces were showing signs of fear.
“The Russians are scared of us.”