A Canadian sniper working alongside Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS successfully struck a member of the militant group from a distance of 3,540 metres, Canada's military confirmed Thursday.
The sniper is a member of the elite Joint Task Force 2 special forces unit, but citing operation security the military provided no details about how or when the incident took place.
The Globe and Mail first reported the sniper record Thursday and quoted unnamed military sources who said the kill shot disrupted an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces.
The shot surpasses the previous record held by a British soldier, who in 2009 shot a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan from a distance of 2,475 metres.
Jody Mitic, a former Canadian sniper who now serves as an Ottawa city councillor, said he had heard rumours of the Canadian's record-breaking feat and describes it as "a hell of a shot."
Mitic said to hit a target at that distance, the sniper team, likely a shooter and spotter, would have to take every possible factor into account, from the temperature of the weapon and ammunition to the curvature of the Earth.
"The shooter and the spotter know exactly what they're doing," Mitic said. But "at the end of the day, long-range shooting, it's your best guess."
"There's so much that goes into this, but at the same time, when you're in that environment, operating in that way, a lot of these things become second nature," Mitic said in an interview with CBC News.
Mitic, who was badly injured by a land mine in Afghanistan in 2007, expects the sniper team would have been working in the area for a while and would have known the conditions and terrain extremely well. He said teams like this have long been a vital part of Canada's military operations.
"We're called 'force multipliers,'" Mitic said.
"If you have a well-trained, well-equipped group of snipers in an area, that frees up about a hundred other troops to go and do other things."
Canadian sniper history
Canadians have held the record for longest kill shot before.
Former corporal Rob Furlong shot a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan in 2002 from a distance of 2,430 metres. He broke the record set just a few days earlier by another Canadian, former master corporal Aaron Perry, who shot an insurgent from a distance of 2,286 metres.
The history of snipers in the Canadian military goes back much further. Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow, an Ojibwa member of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, was the deadliest sniper of the First World War, with a record of 378 kills. He still stands as one of Canada's most decorated First Nations soldiers.
Mark Zuehlke, who has written a dozen books on Canada's military history, said Canadian snipers showed deadly effectiveness in both world wars.
"The best snipers were usually country boys who knew how to hunt," Zuehlke said. "They knew how to handle a gun and handle a gun well."
The Canadian mission in Iraq has been the subject of much debate over whether Canada's troops are involved in a combat mission.
That debate was reignited recently when the Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance revealed Canadian troops were operating inside Mosul.
In a statement confirming the sniper's successful shot, the Canadian Forces insisted its mission in Iraq is still to merely "advise and assist" Iraqi forces.
"This takes the form of advice in planning for their operations and assistance to defeat Daesh [ISIS] through the use of coalition resources," the statement said.