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Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Great Loss

America lost one of her greatest allies in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq with the news today that Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed by a bomb near his home in Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province.

Sheik Abdul Sattar was a Sunni Tribal leader who has been credited with establishing the Anbar Salvation Council – a movement also known as “The Awakening” – which sought to partner Sunni leaders with US allies to drive Al Qaeda from the province.

The White House issued this statement this morning:

“We condemn today’s assassination of Sheik Abdul Sattar. His efforts, and those of his fellow tribal sheiks, to take the fight to Al Qaeda and bring peace and security to Anbar and other regions of Iraq exemplify the courage and determination of the Iraqi people. The President recognized this courage in his recent meeting in Anbar with Sheik Sattar and other leaders.”

Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell, who has met Sheik Sattar, had this to say about the tragic loss:

“When many Sheiks under the rule of Al Qaeda in Anbar fled to Jordan and Syria, he (Sattar) stuck around at great personal peril. He lost many members of his family, 3 of his brothers were killed at the hands of Al Qaeda and yet he decided enough was enough. He was going to stand up to end Al Qaeda’s murderous ways in Anbar. He sought out Marines there and went knocking on their doors to ask what he could do to help combat this. This began the relationship between the Marines and Sheik Sattar.”

One of those relationships was with Army Captain Travis Patriquin who was killed last year in Ramadi. Sheik Sattar and his tribal leaders made a very bold statement by attending the memorial service for Patriquin in Iraq.

Travis’ father, Gary Patriquin, shared his thoughts on the Sheik’s death with FOX News Radio’s Mike Majchrowitz in an exclusive interview.

“I felt like I knew this man, like he was part of my family, because of the concern he had for my son.”

When Oliver North made his eighth trip to Iraq last year, he was able to meet Sheik Sattar in Ramadi. Sheik Sattar told North that the “sons of Al Anbar” are “friends of the United States” and would continue to fight against Al Qaeda.

That was the case in Ramadi, as well as what I witnessed in Fallujah last November, and it is the key to the successes that you hear about in Anbar from the President and General Petraeus. Without Sheik Sattar and others like him, we have a very daunting challenge to hold the peace regardless of a troop increase or reduction. Let’s hope those after him will have the same courage and determination of Sheik Sattar.