Qaeda group claims killing of Iraqi Sunni leader

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DUBAI, Sep 14 (Reuters) An Al Qaeda-led group said today it was responsible for the killing of Iraqi tribal leader Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, according to an Internet posting today.

The self-styled Islamic State in Iraq called the killing of Abu Risha a ''heroic operation''. Its statement could not be authenticated, but it was posted on a main Islamist Web site.

The Sunni leader had worked with American forces to create one of Iraq's few security success stories. He was killed in a bomb attack near his home in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province.

Abu Risha, who met US President George W Bush less than two weeks ago, had led the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that worked with US troops to push Sunni Islamist al Qaeda out of much of the vast desert area.

Ahmed Abu Risha was named as the council's new head hours after the death of his charismatic, chain-smoking brother, who wore flowing white and gold robes as he shook hands with Bush.

Sunni Arab leaders and US forces in Anbar province vowed today to keep fighting al Qaeda, as a funeral was held for Abu Risha.

''The killing of Sheikh Abu Risha will give us more energy ... to continue confronting al Qaeda members and to dispose of them,'' said Sheikh Rashid Majid, a leader of the al-Bufahad tribe in Ramadi.

''But his murder will make us more cautious, because the reason for the killing of Abu Risha was careless security. We are 90 per cent sure that al Qaeda is behind the assassination.'' ''Revenge should be made quickly,'' mourners chanted as the coffins of Abu Risha and two bodyguards, draped in Iraqi flags, were carried to the cemetery. ''We will chase the killers.'' Reuters SZ VP0140

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