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September 13, 2007

Key Figure In "Anbar Awakening" Killed By Al Qaeda Roadside Bomb

An attempt at a mini, high-impact Tet. Important is the symbolism, that Al Qaeda can continue to operate in Anbar, even with security improvements. Though it has to be noted no one ever said Al Qaeda was utterly expelled from that province.

What effect this will have on the new alliance is unknown.

Iraqi tribal leader Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a key figure in U.S. efforts to turn local residents against al-Qaeda in the restive Anbar province, was killed today by a roadside bomb, U.S. military and Iraqi sources confirmed.

Abu Risha was a leading member of the Anbar Salvation Council, a group formed a year ago Thursday that proved critical to a recent reduction in insurgent violence in the province. He worked closely with U.S. officials, a fact that made him a target of militants angry about his decision to cooperate with the United States and his ability to convince other tribal sheiks to follow.

He and two bodyguards were killed near his home in Ramadi, a town that as recently as February was under the effective control of al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters. The explosion at roughly 3:20 p.m. local time destroyed the vehicle they were riding in.

An associate and fellow sheik, Jubeir Rashid, said members of the council expected attempts on Abu Risha's life, but vowed that "it will not deter us."

"It is a major blow to the council, but we are determined to strike back and continue our work," Rashid said, according to the Associated Press.

...

"This is a tragic loss," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said of Abu Risha's death. "It's a terrible loss for Anbar province and all of Iraq. It shows how significant his importance was and it shows al-Qaeda in Iraq remains a very dangerous and barbaric enemy."

Along with reaffirming the ability of insurgents to operate in Anbar, Abu Risha's assassination could raise questions about the future of the tribal coalition that had pulled together to quell al-Qaeda influence.

Petraeus, in Washington where he delivered a report to Congress this week, said he was confident the coalition will hold. In his congressional testimony this week, Patraeus called the advances in Anbar "the most significant development in the past six months" in Iraq.

"I think that the tribes will pull together and go after whoever did this," Petraeus said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Some more background on Abu Risha here, at Alphabet City.

Thanks to TLCS.

Related: Not quite fair as CNN has reported Sunni insurgents fighting Al Qaeda previously, but who cares about being fair to CNN?


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posted by Ace at 12:29 PM

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