Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has accused Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of “sedition” and dismissed his claim of being the head of a worldwide caliphate, reflecting the growing divisions between the two terror groups.
An audio message was released online on Wednesday, two days before the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, featuring Zawahiri saying that Baghdadi’s caliphate is illegitimate.
Zawahiri emphasised that Al Qaeda does not recognise Baghdadi’s caliphate, saying it is not qualified to lead Muslims, according to The Long War Journal, a website that closely tracks jihadi groups.
In June last year, the Islamic State had announced the formation of a worldwide caliphate and named al-Baghdadi as its head.
“We preferred to respond with as little as possible, out of our concern to extinguish the fire of sedition but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers did not leave us a choice, for they have demanded that all the mujahideen reject their confirmed pledges of allegiance, and to pledge allegiance to them for what they claim of a caliphate,” Zawahiri said in the 45-minute message, according to ABC News.
“Everyone was surprised” by Baghdadi’s declaration that he was the fourth caliph in Islamic history, Zawahiri said. Baghdadi had done this “without consulting the Muslims”, he added.
Zawahiri also complained in the message that Baghdadi had ignored Muslims suffering in Gaza and Pakistan. He said no Muslim is obligated to swear loyalty to Baghdadi.
The Islamic State was earlier the Al Qaeda branch in Iraq and Baghdadi was named as its leader in May 2010. In April 2013, Baghdadi broke away to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the rivalry between the two groups increased the following year.
Baghdadi has called on Al Qaeda members to defect to the Islamic State and to renounce their oaths of loyalty to Zawahiri.