Sheikh Sattar, leader of the Anbar Awakening, killed in bombing


Poster shows Sheikh Abu-Risha staring down figures representing Al Qaeda in Ramadi. (Photo by Sam Dagher, CSM). Click to view.

Combat Outpost Corregidor, Baghdad Province: The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has begun with a grim attack against the leader of the movement that actively opposes al Qaeda in Iraq. Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the founder of the Anbar Awakening movement, was murdered in a car bomb attack outside of his home in Ramadi. The Associated Press provides the details of the assassination.

Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near the tribal leader's home in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police ...

"It is a major blow to the council, but we are determined to strike back and continue our work," said Sheik Jubeir Rashid, a senior member of Abu Risha's group. "Such an attack was expected, but it will not deter us." He said the bombing took place at 3:30 p.m. as Abu Risha was returning home.

A Ramadi police officer said Abu Risha had received a group of poor people at his home earlier in the day, as a gesture of charity marking the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said authorities believed the bomb was planted by one of the visitors.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said that after the first blast that killed Abu Risha, a car bomb exploded nearby. "The car bomb had been rigged just in case the roadside bomb missed his convoy," Khalaf said. There were no casualties from the car bomb, he added.

Sattar's murder is a serious blow to the Anbar Awakening and the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq beyond the borders of Anbar province. Sheikh Sattar has been instrumental in organizing tribal sheikhs and former Sunni insurgent groups such as the 1920s Revolution Brigades and the Mujahideen Army to band together and fight al Qaeda in Iraq.

Sattar and the Anbar Awakening spread its influence through tribal and insurgent connections into Salahadin, Baghdad, Diyala, and Babil provinces. Here in the Haswa region, US military officers and Iraqi sheikhs credit the Anbar Awakening with providing both the inspiration and material support to organize against al Qaeda in Iraq. US military officers described the spread of the resistance against al Qaeda in Iraq in southern Baghdad and northern Babil provinces as "arcing from Anbar in the west to the east."

Sattar was seen as more than just a military leader. Although he was appointed the chief of counterterrorism in Anbar Province by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, in the past a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Sattar had political aspirations as well. Sattar was seen as a legitimate, pro-American alternative to the current crop of Sunni leaders in the Iraqi government.


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READER COMMENTS: "Sheikh Sattar, leader of the Anbar Awakening, killed in bombing"

Posted by Neo at September 13, 2007 12:51 PM ET:

I was thinking about the possible repercussions from this. I'm not so sure that it will slow the Anbar Salvation Council's efforts in Anbar or the spread into Western Baghdad's belts. It may have more negative impact politically. Others within the movement may be reluctant to take a high profile politically for a while. In the short term his may complicate efforts to bring representation from the Anbar council into the government.

There seems to be a Northern Sunni tribes vs. Western Sunni tribe dynamic in the mix too. The efforts of the Anbar Salvation Council have really taken hold among the Western Sunni tribes even politically extending into Western Baghdad. Among the Northern Sunni tribes there is much more resistance at this point. Inroads into the Northern tribes have been slow. I don't think it's coincidental that this reflects the power dynamics of the former regime. It also reflects the fact that US and Iraqi Army forces have been very active in Anbar for some time, and are just now starting to penetrate some last remaining Northern Sunni strongholds.

A military solution will not solve Iraq's problems, but neither will a political solution. It will take both in tandem.

Posted by Robert Stevens at September 13, 2007 1:18 PM ET:

Well, Bill, do you think Nibras Kazimi still holds to his assertion that Sattar's importance to the counter-insurgency was hyped by the Americans?

Let's just say he was and that his elimination is less a blow to the Awakening than it was a strike at Bush by AQI. With his murder, on the day the President addresses the nation on the success of the surge, which Anbar figures prominently in, Sattar's martydom has elevated him beyond America's hyped up poster boy for its counter-insurgency success in Anbar into a full fledged Iraqi hero, arguably, now, the most recognizable and legitimate Sunni figure in Iraq that had the balls to stay in Ramadi and stand up to the Salafists.

His legacy will be cemented tonight when President Bush expresses America's regret at losing its most important Sunni ally in Iraq and asserts that his death only underscores the viciousness of AQ, the enemy of America and Iraq.

Once again AQI has overreached.

Godspeed Abdul Sattar.

Posted by Neo at September 13, 2007 1:52 PM ET:

Someone within Anbar Awakening is a possibility, as well as Al Qaeda, one of the parties in Accord Front, someone with Baathist ties, another local tribe, or a proxy of a foreign government. I think calling the likely work of the other Anbar Sunni sheikhs within the organization that have turned against him would be a bit premature, to say the least.

Posted by anand at September 13, 2007 4:19 PM ET:

I don't know the political implications. I am sad that our and Iraq's friend is dead.

Posted by Dustin at September 13, 2007 4:21 PM ET:

لا إلة إلأ اللة There is no God but God!

He died a martyr for his cause like so many others before him


اللة يرحمة
May God have mercy on him!

Posted by Eric Bowen at September 13, 2007 5:36 PM ET:

In February I filmed an interview with Shiekh Sattar's younger brother, Ahmed B, in Fallujah talking about the Awakening, and how two of their other brothers and their father had been previously assasinated: http://ericiniraq.scrappydog.com/2007/03/interviews-with-iraqi-shiekh-and-marine.html

Unfortunately, the insurgents have had Shiekh Sattar in their sites from the start... and they finally got him.

I would guess that this will have a pretty strong chilling influence on the whole awakening movement.

Posted by KnightHawk at September 13, 2007 6:46 PM ET:

This is very sad news. While I do believe the awakenings have grown beyond this man, it's can't be seen as anything but a setback. It's a tragic loss. Now is the time for those associated with his cause to rise up further and faster and not let his death be in vain. My sense is this could effect the speed and nature of the "bottom up" political efforts more then the security efforts, am I wrong to think that?

Godspeed Abdul Sattar.

Posted by Eric Holmes at September 13, 2007 8:57 PM ET:

I am saddened by the loss of truly a great man. My last day in Ramadi I spent three hours with him at his house. He shared with me his philosophies on life and his vision of the future. He was a very warm and sincere person who was more of a leader than the US give him credit. My prayers go out to his wife, his brothers, his son and his four daughters.

Posted by Robert Stevens at September 13, 2007 9:24 PM ET:

Ack! Bush doesn't mention Sattar by name. Only that a key US ally, a tribal shaykh in Anbar was murdered today.

Wonder if the White House is purposely downplaying Sattar's importance?

Posted by Robert Stevens at September 13, 2007 9:42 PM ET:

BTW, AP is reporting the Sattar's (lone surviving?) brother, Ahmed, will "take over as head of the [Anbar Salvation] council, a source in the body said."

Eric Bowen interviewed Shaykh Ahmed in March in Fallujah. Link to that interview is here: http://ericiniraq.scrappydog.com/2007/09/shiek-abdul-sattar-abu-reesha.html

Posted by Turner at September 13, 2007 10:12 PM ET:

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was a brave man.

Posted by Robert Stevens at September 14, 2007 12:01 AM ET:

For the love of God!

NY Sun's Eli Lake is reporting that Sattar's brother Shaykh Ahmed, who AP earlier said would replace his brother, is missing and it is not known whether or not he was with Sattar.

Last night, the Anbar Awakening's leadership was searching for Ahmad Zezia al-Rishawi, a brother of the slain Abu Risha. If Mr. Rishawi was not with his brother when the car exploded and is alive, he would become the interim leader of the group. If he is dead, one possible successor could come from outside the Risha tribe, the group's chief of national political operations, Sheik Hamid Farhan al-Hays, said. The sheik will oversee the funeral of Abu Risha.

Posted by Robert Stevens at September 14, 2007 12:19 AM ET:

Scratch my last post. Ahmed is alive and safe.

NY Times:

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."

Sheik Sattar's brother said he would accept the job as leader of the Anbar Awakening Council if it was offered, and Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni Arab leader from the largest tribe in Anbar, said the sheiks had already agreed that the brother would be the successor.

"The martyrdom of Sattar will not affect this council because every member of this council has the same beliefs and the same motivations and this sad incident will not stop them from moving forward," said Sheik Risha. "Although they killed Sattar, there are a million Sattars in Anbar."

"A million Sattar's in Anbar." Wow.

A knot in the throat, a smile on my face, and a fist pump.

Posted by kuresel at September 14, 2007 1:13 AM ET:

i am saddened by the loss of truly a great man.

For the love of God!

Posted by Mike E at September 14, 2007 10:49 AM ET:

Al-Qaida has allready started to suffer the consequences of the murder of Sattar. This could be another big blow for them.

Iraqi Sunni sheik's mourners vow revenge.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/iraq

Excerpt:

More than 1,500 mourners marched along the highway near the home of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who was killed along with two bodyguards and a driver Thursday by a bomb hidden near his house, just west of Ramadi.

Scores of Iraqi police and U.S. military vehicles lined the route to protect the procession as it followed the black SUV carrying the sheik's Iraqi-flag draped coffin.

"We will take our revenge," the mourners chanted along the 10 kilometer (6 mile) route to Risha's family cemetery, many of them crying. "We will continue the march of Abu Risha."

Posted by David M at September 14, 2007 1:00 PM ET:

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/14/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by Evan at September 15, 2007 6:10 AM ET:

This is God awful. He was the only non-sectarian Sunni that could have really made a difference. We lost way more than we know and it will be a while before we fully comprehend it. His interest in security and cooperation went well beyond his own financial well-being - it was more about Iraq with him. Without his moral authority, I'm not so sure anymore.

Posted by Bulldog at September 16, 2007 2:48 PM ET:

I have been reading some very good things about this man.Hopefully the rally will continue and this will be another bad miscue by the enemy!