By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Peter Graff
BAGHDAD, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Sunni tribal leaders who have vowed to drive al Qaeda out of Iraq's most restive province met the Shi'ite premier on Wednesday, marking what Washington hopes will be a breakthrough alliance against militants.
Sattar al-Buzayi, a Sunni sheikh from Anbar province who has emerged in recent weeks as a leader of a tribal alliance against Osama bin Laden's followers, said he and about 15 other sheikhs had offered their cooperation to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"We agreed to cooperate," Buzayi told Reuters. "We haven't agreed to anything specific, but we agreed to cooperate."
Maliki's office issued a statement praising the chiefs for their committment to fighting the militants.
"This is admired and respected by all Iraqis. We are fully prepared to back your efforts," the prime minister said.
It was the first time Maliki had met the sheikhs since they pledged to fight al Qaeda in a meeting at Buzayi's compound in Ramadi, the provincial capital, two weeks ago.
Al Qaeda's Iraq branch has seized control of towns and villages throughout the Euphrates river valley along the 250 km (180 miles) from Falluja, near Baghdad, to the Syrian border.
But their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and violent rule has alienated traditional-minded Sunni Muslims, including groups that have supported the insurgency against U.S. forces.
The United States says its 30,000 troops in Anbar -- by far the deadliest province for U.S. forces in Iraq -- cannot defeat the insurgency on their own. Senior commanders say they have been delighted by recent developments in Ramadi.
Buzayi confirmed that U.S. and Iraqi forces had killed a senior al Qaeda figure in Anbar on Tuesday. Khalid Ibrahim Mahal has been described as Qaeda's "emir" in the province although the organisation's precise leadership structure is murky.
"He was a very important figure for al Qaeda and getting rid of him was for the best," Buzayi told Reuters.
Iraqi journalists for Reuters in Ramadi say another figure named Zuhair, seen as a key Qaeda militant and known locally as "The Butcher of Anbar", was killed by tribal gunmen in a car as he walked in one of Ramadi's main commercial streets on Monday.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Good News from Iraq
I think this ought to qualify. And from al-Reuters too!. No link as it's a headline on my new service so I'll just cut and paste.