Al Qaeda`s Iraq head refuses to scrap Syria merger
Baghdad: The leader of al-Qaeda`s Iraq arm defiantly rejected an order from the terror network`s global command to scrap a merger with the organisation`s Syria affiliate, according to a message purporting to be from him that was posted online on Saturday.
The latest statement by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State of Iraq, reveals a growing rift within the terror network and highlights the Iraqi wing`s determination to link its own fight against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad with the cause of rebels trying to topple the Syrian regime.
In an audio message posted online, a speaker identified as al-Baghdadi insists that a merger he announced in April with Syria`s Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group to create a cross-border movement known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant will continue.
"The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant will continue as long as we live. We will not give up and we will not compromise over this," he said.
Al-Nusra is Syria`s most powerful rebel extremist group, and its head has rejected the takeover attempt.
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV reported late Sunday that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had issued a letter trying to end the squabbling and ordering the two groups to stay separate.
Al-Baghdadi is now defying that command. In his statement, he referred to "the letter attributed to Sheik al-Zawahiri," suggesting he was calling into question the authenticity of the letter.
"I chose the command of God over the command that runs against it in the letter," al-Baghdadi said. He urged his followers to rise up against Shiites, Alawites, and the "Party of Satan" -- a reference to the Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which has been sending fighters to Syria to fight alongside of President Bashar Assad`s regime. Assad comes from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
It was not possible to independently confirm whether the speaker was al-Baghdadi, but the man`s voice was similar to that in an earlier recording announcing the merger.
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