Breaking: Sunni Tribal Leader Assassinated in Iraq

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A key U.S. ally in Iraq was assassinated near his home in Ramadi earlier today. Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a senior member of the Anbar Salvation Council, was killed along with two bodyguards when a powerful roadside bomb destroyed his car. He had been a leading organizer of the so-called ‘Anbar Miracle.’ According to the Washington Post:

The council has been credited with helping tamp down violence in the area and retaking control from the insurgents, progress touted by U.S. officials as a sign their current strategy in Iraq is showing results. Abu Risha met just last week with President Bush during Bush’s surprise trip to the country.

“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.

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

He said it was not clear who might emerge as a successor. He called Abu Risha “an important unity figure” in what had been until recently a fractious and violence-riven community.

Abu Risha, in his mid-30s, was “an organizing force that did help organize alliances and did help keep the various tribes together,” the general said.

The emergence of the Anbar council, Petraeus said, caused a “political shift of seismic proportions” — a dynamic that the U.S. is trying to replicate in other parts of the country.

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