Bomb kills Sunni ally of U.S.

first_imgLocal papers often featured photographs of the robed sheik talking with the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, with other American generals and with the Shiite prime minister, Nouri Kamal al-Maliki. But he was not unequivocally supportive; he often complained about the government’s failure to give his men the arms and support they needed. He had credibility with the tribal leaders because he and his family had suffered so much loss at the hands of the jihadi extremists. In an interview earlier this year, Abdul Sattar said that his father had been killed in an attack by al-Qaida of Mesopotamia in 2004 and two of his brothers were abducted and never heard from again; a third was shot dead. He had survived three car bombs outside the Anbar home he shared with his wife and five children. On Thursday, the American military said a bomb destroyed the vehicle he was in, but it was unclear whether it was a roadside bomb or a suicide bomber. No group had claimed the assassination late Thursday, but security officials in Iraq appeared convinced that responsibility lay with al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, the homegrown extremist group that associated itself with Osama bin Laden’s wider group and is believed to be foreign-led. But many groups in Iraq carry out assassinations, and Abdul Sattar may have had other enemies. Some other tribal leaders felt he drew more of the spotlight than his due. More recently, there were tensions between him and Sunni Arabs in parliament, who worried that his alliance’s growing influence might encroach on their power. BAGHDAD, Iraq – A high-profile Sunni Arab sheik who collaborated with the American military in the fight against jihadist militants in western Iraq was killed in a bomb attack on Thursday near his desert compound. The attack appeared to be a precisely planned assassination meant to undermine one of the Bush administration’s trumpeted achievements in the war. Two guards were also killed in the attack on the sheik, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who just last week shook hands with President Bush during Bush’s surprise visit to Anbar, in which he extolled the cooperation with Sunni clans that has made the province, once Iraq’s most dangerous, relatively safe. Iraqi and American officials were stunned by the assassination, which came just hours before Bush was to address the American people about his plans for Iraq. But they said it would not derail the collaboration of the alliance of Sunni clans, known as the Anbar Salvation Council. Abdul Sattar, 35, who was also known as Abu Risha to Iraqi and American commanders, had become the public face of the Sunni Arab tribes in lawless Anbar province that turned against the Sunni jihadists of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia and began to fight on the side of the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the American military. The Salvation Council was formed one day short of a year ago. The collaborating tribes first began telling the Americans where extremists were hiding weapons caches, burying bombs, and running safehouses. Then they set up checkpoints and began engaging in gunfights with Qaida cells in the Ramadi area. With attacks decreasing against both Americans and Iraqis, and large numbers of tribesmen lining up to join local security forces, the American military has begun to try to spread the approach. “The timing was critical; the assassination came at this moment because of the report of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior political adviser to al-Maliki, referring to Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He added that the killing appeared intended to undermine the Bush administration’s effort to claim success in fighting al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, the brother of the assassinated sheik, described the killers as “criminals” and, speaking in a low, resigned voice in a telephone interview, said they were “trying to send a message to everybody that whoever tries to help the humanity and to bring life again to Iraqis and also to improve the image of Islam will get killed.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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