Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who replaced Osama bin Laden as the head of al Qaeda, has purportedly declared war on ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a new audio message released today.
“We [al Qaeda] don’t recognize this caliphate,” al-Zawahiri said in the audio message. However he went on to say, “Despite the big mistakes [of ISIS], if I were in Iraq or Syria I would cooperate with them in killing the crusaders and secularists and Shia even though I don’t recognize the legitimacy of their state, because the matter is bigger than that.”
Still, by disavowing al-Baghdadi’s legitimacy among extremist Muslims, al-Zawahiri has perhaps opened up an exploitation opportunity for American counter-terrorism operatives.
However, it’s not clear when al-Zawahiri recorded this newly released speech. Some references he makes suggest that it was recorded last spring. al-Zawahiri may be finding it more difficult to get his messages out as he currently has a $25 million dollar bounty on his head.
Whatever the case, it was released for a reason and suggests growing discord in the two leading terrorist franchises.
[ISIS] split from al Qaeda during the early phases of the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011, after refusing to confine its operations to Syria. [ISIS] has since seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq, eclipsing al Qaeda as the world’s chief jihadist threat, with [ISIS] chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring himself Caliph or leader of all Muslims in 2014.