Friday, September 14, 2007

The death of a key Sheik

AFP--Sunni Arabs in Iraq's Anbar province vowed on Friday to avenge the death of their leader, Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, as premier Nuri al-Maliki blamed Al-Qaeda for the murder of the key US ally.

Thousands of angry and grieving mourners joined the funeral procession of the slain sheikh in Ramadi, capital of the western desert province, carrying his body 10 kilometres (six miles) from his home to the local cemetery.

"Revenge, revenge on Al-Qaeda," shouted the crowd of mourners, an AFP correspondent reported.

"There is no God but Allah and Al-Qaeda is the enemy of Allah. Abdul Sattar is the pride of Ramadi."

Abu Reesha and three bodyguards were killed on Thursday when a powerful bomb ripped through their convoy near the tribal leader's home outside the city.

The assassination came on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and almost a year after Abu Reesha formed the Anbar Awakening Conference, a coalition of 42 Sunni tribes who along with US troops fought Al-Qaeda in Anbar.

"We blame Al-Qaeda and we are going to continue our fight and avenge his death," said Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, who was elected new leader of the tribal coalition soon after his brother's murder.

The prime minister was represented at the funeral by national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, who condemned the assassination.

"It is a national Iraqi disaster. What Abu Reesha did for Iraq, no single man has done in the country's history," Rubaie told the mourners gathered at the sheikh's house.

"We will support Anbar much more than before. Abu Reesha is a national hero."

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