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Eleven Iraqis arrested over killing of tribal chief

RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) - Eleven Iraqi suspects have been arrested for involvement in the killing of a Sunni Arab tribal leader who helped push al Qaeda fighters from much of Anbar province, his brother said.

Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, head of the Anbar Salvation Council alliance of Sunni tribes opposed to al Qaeda, was killed in a September 13 bomb attack shortly after a public meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Ahmed Abu Risha, who succeeded him last week, said the attackers had been helped by one of Abu Risha’s own guards.

“Al Qaeda have been planning to do that for years. They had carried out 11 suicide attacks against the sheikh but he survived,” Ahmed Abu Risha told Reuters over the weekend.

He said “a member of Abdul Sattar’s security guards facilitated the entrance of the suicide bomber and we later arrested a cell of 11 al Qaeda members who planned the attack.”

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“They are all Iraqis from the city of Ramadi,” he said.

Ramadi, Abu Risha’s hometown, is the capital of the western province of Anbar, once regarded as one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Since Abu Risha’s campaign against al Qaeda militants, the violence has dropped sharply.

The burnt wreckage of Abu Risha’s car could still be seen in a deserted field near to the family home where Ahmed Abu Risha was speaking. Dozens of police and armed men guarded the house.

Last week U.S. forces said they had caught a suspected al Qaeda militant believed to be behind Abu Risha’s killing.

The U.S. military said Fallah al-Jumayli was captured during an operation north of Baghdad. It said he was also involved in a plot to kill key leaders in the “tribal awakening” of Sunni Arabs who have turned against al Qaeda in the last year.

It was not clear whether Jumayli was one of the 11 detainees Abu Risha was referring to.