Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of radical Islamist group Al-Qaeda, has labeled fellow Islamic terror group ISIS as “extremists” in an audio recording posted online on Sunday.
Al-Zawahiri also has also urged fractious jihadi groups in Syria to unite against Russia and “western crusaders”.
The remark by the Osama Bin Laden successor comes in aftermath of events that saw Isis militants execute a senior al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra commander after accusing him of assassination attempts against IS chiefs.
According to IBTimes, after successfully expanding across Syria and Iraq, IS sees Al-Qaeda as a “downed enemy” with the organisation even losing influence in once-favorable lands in Afghanistan to the Islamic State.
As successor to hugely influential bin Laden, Zawahiri has the pledged support of Al-Qaeda branches in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. But times are worrying for Al-Qaeda, as the dominance of once largest terror group is now put into question by the sudden and explosive rise of the Islamic state.
Al-Qaeda derivatives Nusra Front and ISIS are two of the most feared terror groups inflicting fear in Syria. They were a single group before 2013. The split is supposed to be due to power struggles among front-rank leaders.
“We have to want the unity of the Mujahideen in Sham [Syria] so it will be liberated from the Russians and Western crusaders. My brothers… the matter of unity is a matter of life or death for you,” Zawahiri said.
According to NBC News, the authenticity of the audio clips has not been yet verified, but the tape had the hallmarks of previous Al-Zawahiri tapes. Zawahiri is believed to be hiding in a border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On the recording, Al-Zawahiri is heard launching a tirade against a U.N.-backed political process to find a solution in Syria. Al-Zawahiri also had few words of gratitude for Nusra Front, which controls most of Idlib province.
IBTimes also reported that the militants have been tempted with promises of improved weaponry, but Jabhat al-Nusra and their close ally Ahrar al-Sham, have formed an alliance known as Jaish al-Fatah. This alliance has carried out numerous successful attacks on Syrian and Iranian troops near city of Aleppo.
Al-Zawahiri has also urged rival jihadist fighters in Syria to unite or risk death.
This is not the first time these groups have attempted to coalesce. Previously, on numerous occasions, they tried merging into single unit and Al-Zawahiri reportedly said in the audio recording that they should once-again fight together against Assad and the West.
“We have to want the unity of the Mujahideen in Sham [Syria] so it will be liberated from the Russians and Western Crusaders. My brothers… the matter of unity is a matter of life or death for you.”
Al-Zawahiri was crowned the leader of the terrorist front within one week after the assassination of Bin Laden. He is also reportedly in favor of al-Nusra’s plan to create a new sovereign state in Syria that would rival the IS-declared “caliphate.”
“If they create their government, and choose their emir, what they choose is our choice,” Al-Zawahiri added.
Al-Qaeda is not the first group to slam the brutality of the Islamic state. Another radical Islamist group Taliban has also slammed the Islamic state for their obsession with beheading.
Al-Qaeda is believed to be the parent group of Islamic State, as many Islamic militants had sworn their allegiance to Al-Qaeda before 2013. But that was before the Islamic state expanded into Syria against the wishes of Zawahiri. In an audio clip released in September, he dismissed the IS high command by questioning the legitimacy of leader al-Baghdadi, IBTimes reported.
[Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP/Getty Images]