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