BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi Sunni sheikh Sattar Abu Reesha, who has been fighting Al-Qaeda since last year, was killed on Thursday in a bomb attack on his convoy in the western city of Ramadi, police said.
One of his bodyguards was also killed in the attack that marked a bloody start to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“He was returning home when his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb planted by insurgents,” said Anbar security chief Colonel Tareq al-Dulaimi. “His car was hit directly.”
Sheikh Reesha was a prominent figure in the so-called Anbar Awakening Conference of Sunni tribes which formed an alliance with American troops in western Anbar province to claw back their neighbourhoods from Al-Qaeda.
A week ago, he attended a meeting of Iraqi government and US officials in Ramadi, capital of Anbar, at which he urged other provinces to follow Anbar’s lead in cooperating with the central government.
The meeting, known as the Anbar Forum, was aimed at giving an economic boost to the western province, where Sunni Arab former insurgents have joined with US forces to fight Al-Qaeda.
“I wish we could do in all the provinces of Iraq what we did in Anbar, which is that the people and the government come together,” he said, just three days after US President George W. Bush made a surprise stopover at an airbase just 48 kilometres (30 miles) west of Ramadi.