- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) The most prominent figure in a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al Qaeda in Iraq was killed today in an explosion near his home in Anbar province, police 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.

He was among a group of tribal leaders who met President Bush earlier this month at al-Asad Air Base in Anbar province.

Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police.

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.

A senior member of Abu Risha’s group, Sheik Jubeir Rashid, said the explosion took place at 3:30 p.m. as Abu Risha was returning to his home in Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial capital.

“It is a major blow to the council, but we are determined to strike back and continue our work,” Rashid said. “Such an attack was expected, but it will not deter us.”

A Ramadi police officer said Abu Risha had received a group of poor people at his home earlier in the day, to mark the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said authorities believed the bomb was planted by one of the visitors.

After the bombing, police announced a state of emergency in Ramadi and set up additional checkpoints throughout the city, Rashid said.

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