Iraq: Revenge sought in sheik's death

Updated: 2007-09-14 20:02

BAGHDAD - Mourners vowed revenge and perseverance Friday at the funeral of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants who was assassinated just 10 days after meeting with President Bush in Iraq's Anbar province.

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 US 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 six-mile route to Risha's family cemetery, many of them crying. "We will continue the march of Abu Risha."

Abu Risha was buried one year after the goateed, charismatic, chain-smoking young sheik organized 25 Sunni Arab clans under the umbrella of the Anbar Awakening Council, an alliance against al-Qaida in Iraq, to drive terrorists from sanctuaries where they had flourished after the US-led invasion in 2003.

No group claimed responsibility for the assassination, but it was widely assumed to have been carried out by al-Qaida, which already had killed four of Abu Risha's brothers and six other relatives for working with the US military.

US officials credit Abu Risha and allied sheiks with a dramatic improvement in security in such Anbar flashpoints as Fallujah and Ramadi after years of American failure to subdue the extremists. US officials now talk of using the Anbar model to organize tribal fighters elsewhere in Iraq.

Bush hailed Abu Risha's courage during his short Sept. 3 visit to al-Asad Air Base, and vowed in his nationally televised address Thursday night to help others carry on his work.

"Earlier today, one of the brave tribal sheiks who helped lead the revolt against al-Qaida was murdered," Bush said. "In response, a fellow Sunni leader declared: "We are determined to strike back and continue our work." And as they do, they can count on the continued support of the United States."

Many high-ranking officials were on hand for the funeral, including Iraq's interior and defense ministers and National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie.

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