Key Sunni Leader Dies in Anbar Bombing

A top leader of the Sunni Arab movement that has been aligned with U.S. forces in Iraq's Anbar province was killed Thursday in a roadside bombing. Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was founder of the Anbar Salvation Council, which joined U.S. troops fighting al-Qaida in Iraq last year.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

U: Success is possible; look at Anbar Province. Sunni tribal leaders there have joined the U.S. in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.

Well, today, a man at the forefront of that effort Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed in a bomb blast along with his bodyguards and his driver. He was leaving his home in the provincial capital Ramadi.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay reports.

JAMIE TARABAY: Sheikh Sattar was the face of the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq when he met President Bush earlier this month at a U.S. base in Anbar. The president praised Sattar and the U.S. military for restoring calm to the region, once the deadliest for U.S. troops.

Sattar and others joined together late last year, declaring a truce and an alliance between local Sunnis and the U.S. military and vowed to crush al-Qaida in Iraq.

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for Sattar's killing. But local tribal leaders were quick to blame al-Qaida. Anbar Sheikh Ayzan Sadun(ph) said al-Qaida in Iraq had warned it would escalate attacks in Anbar during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Today was the first day of fasting for the world's Sunni Muslims.

It's not the first time Sattar and other tribal leaders are being targeted. Sattar had already survived two assassination attempts. In June, a bombing at a Baghdad hotel killed another tribal leader and at least 11 others. Al-Qaida in Iraq said it was behind that blast.

Anbar's tribal leaders convened an emergency meeting following today's killing. A spokesman for the U.S. military command in the western province says that while Sattar's death was a tragic loss, what the sheikh had started will not be stopped.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News, Baghdad.

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U.S. Ally Sheik Abu Risha Killed in Anbar Province

Iraq's al-Anbar province tribe leader Abdel Sattar Abu Risha, right, greets Gen. David Petraeus. i i

Iraq's al-Anbar province tribe leader Abdel Sattar Abu Risha, right, greets new U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, left, in Ramadi in March 2007. Iraqi Sunni sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, who has been fighting al-Qaida since last year, was killed Sept. 13, 2007, in a bomb attack near his home in Iraq's Ramadi. Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images
Iraq's al-Anbar province tribe leader Abdel Sattar Abu Risha, right, greets Gen. David Petraeus.

Iraq's al-Anbar province tribe leader Abdel Sattar Abu Risha, right, greets new U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, left, in Ramadi in March 2007. Iraqi Sunni sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, who has been fighting al-Qaida since last year, was killed Sept. 13, 2007, in a bomb attack near his home in Iraq's Ramadi.

Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President Bush, police and tribal leaders said.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening — an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

Officials said his assassination would be a huge setback for U.S. efforts in Iraq, because it sends a message to others who are cooperating with coalition forces or thinking about cooperating against al-Qaida.

Abu Risha and four of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near the tribal leader's home in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police.

A spokesman for Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, confirmed the report.

"It is confirmed that the sheik and two of his bodyguards were killed today near or outside his home," Col. Steven Boylan said in an e-mail from Washington, where Petraeus testified before Congress this week on recent successes in Anbar province.

No group claimed responsibility for the assassination but suspicion fell on al-Qaida in Iraq, which U.S. officials say has suffered devastating setbacks in Anbar thanks to Abu Risha and his fellow sheiks. It's unclear how his death would affect U.S. efforts to organize Sunnis against the terrorist network.

Abu Risha was among a group of tribal leaders who met with President Bush on Sept. 3 at al-Asad Air Base in Anbar province.

His death comes just hours before President Bush's televised address from the Oval Office, endorsing the recommendations of Gen. Petraeus regarding the withdrawal of up to 30,000 American troops from Iraq by next summer. The president is counting on U.S. respect for military judgment.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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