ISIS suicide bomber kills Anbar Awakening leader

A suicide bomber from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham yesterday killed Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha, a senior official in the Anbar Awakening who commanded forces in Ramadi.

Mohammed Khamis “was touring a checkpoint manned by his fighters in Ramadi when a suicide bomber hugged him, said one of his men who witnessed the attack,” Reuters reported. He is said to have commanded hundreds of fighters in the Anbar Awakening, the government-backed tribal militia that led the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to the ISIS.

Mohammed Khamis was the nephew of Ahmed Abu Risha, the leader of the Anbar Awakening and the Albu Risha tribe. Ahmed and his family have been the targets of multiple ISIS suicide and conventional attacks over the years. In September 2012, Ahmed lamented that the US did not fulfill its promise to continue supporting the Awakening after American forces withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011.

“They don’t visit at all. Ever since the United States withdrew, we haven’t gotten anyone to visit,” Ahmed told The Daily Beast.

Mohammed Khamis was also the nephew of Abdul Sattar Abu Risha (Ahmed’s brother), the founder of the Awakening. Abdul Sattar was killed by al Qaeda in a car bombing outside his home in Ramadi in September 2007, just weeks after he had met with former President George W. Bush.

The ISIS remains a powerful force in Anbar and throughout other provinces in central and northern Iraq. The ISIS, along with anti-government tribes, remains in control of Fallujah after taking over the city in early January.

The ISIS also controls other towns and rural areas in Anbar. Two days ago, the Iraqi military launched an offensive to recapture the town of Saqlawiyah. The results of the operation have not been disclosed, which indicates that things may not have gone well for Iraqi forces.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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