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Anti-Al Qaeda Sunni tribal leader killed in Iraq


Baghdad : Ten days after meeting US President George W. Bush, tribal leader and head of the Anbar Salvation Council Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha was killed 50 metres from his home in Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar province, media reports said.

A bomb struck the Sunni leader’s convoy Thursday, immediately killing Abu Risha, his driver and two security guards, the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) reported, citing senior officer Mohamed al-Alwani of the Ramadi police.

Al-Alwani said that since Abu Risha formed the Anbar Salvation Council, which aimed at quelling Al Qaeda in Iraq, he had become a target of the terrorist network.

Analysts believe Al Qaeda considered Abu Risha its second-ranking foe after the US.

Anbar Salvation Council recently announced that Al Qaeda militants had been cleared out of Anbar province, which was showcased by US President George W. Bush as an example of success in Iraq. The council was supported by US and Iraqi government forces.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Abu Risha a “courageous Iraqi leader committed to defeating extremism and improving the lives of the Iraqi people”.

“This act of terrorism can only be seen as an attempt to silence and intimidate those who are determined to build a peaceful, unified, and stable Iraq,” she said. “The United States condemns such criminal acts and stands with the people of al-Anbar province, who have shown a firm determination to work against Al Qaeda and other extremists who seek to harm the Iraqi people and destabilise the country.”

Bush, who met Sunni leaders including Abu Risha during a surprise visit in early September, remembered him as a “brave tribal leader”, in a speech late Thursday on his Iraq policy.

Meanwhile, a state of emergency and curfew were declared in Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, a car bomb targeted a police patrol in the eastern Talabiya district, killing at least five people and wounding 10, including police officers, VOI reported, citing a police source.

Joint Iraq-US forces arrested the alleged mastermind behind July’s market bombings near the town of Tuz Khurmato during a military operation in the Sulaiman Bik area, VOI reported.

Abd Dalian Mohammed, detained Wednesday evening, was believed to be a leading figure of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq, an Iraqi police source was quoted by the agency as saying.

The source said that Mohammed led a network of gunmen in and around Tuz Khurmato and that investigations were underway to uncover the members of his group.

On July 7, at least 100 people were slain and more than 120 wounded when a truck bomb rocked a busy market near Tuz Khurmato in Tamim province, 170 km north of Baghdad.

In other developments, Iraqi security forces killed three believed Al Qaeda terrorists and detained 80 suspects during a three-day operation that ended Wednesday in the Hamrin Ridge and Diyala River Valley area of eastern Iraq, the US military said.

The detainees include four suspected Al Qaeda terrorist cell leaders, the statement said.

Human rights officials from the Iraqi Islamic party said Thursday that 43 Iraqi detainees were released from US-run detention centres following an agreement signed last month with US forces, VOI reported.

Iraqi prisoners would be released on a daily basis from US Army detention during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Omar al-Juburi, the human-rights chief of the Iraqi Islamic party, told VOI.