“Abu Ahmed al-Zobaie was killed at midday in a public marketplace in Abu Ghraib by a bomb stuck to his car,” police major Hatef Mohammed told AFP, adding that Zobaie’s “young” son had also died in the blast.
Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of the capital some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the city centre, was a bastion of an anti-US Sunni Arab insurrection before fighters there turned their backs on their Al-Qaeda allies.
In late 2006 local tribes and former insurgents began to side with the American military to drive out the Islamist extremists.
These militias, known as Sahwa or Awakening, played a crucial role in ousting Al-Qaeda from its former strongholds, but they have also long had icy relations with the Shiite-led government.
Targeted by Al-Qaeda, Sahwa members are also subject to detention by government forces, raising fears among the paramilitary groups that they are being persecuted.
Dozens of Sawha members have been arrested in recent months, and have been warned by the government they have no immunity from the law.
Abu Ghraib is better known as the location for the prison built by the British in the 1960s. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, it was notorious for torture and execution with an estimated 4,000 detainees dying there.
The complex gained further post-invasion notoriety with the publication of graphic pictures of abuse of Iraqi inmates by their American jailers.
That incident drew international opprobrium on the US-led occupation of Iraq that began in March 2003.