Skip to main content

Al Qaeda branch in Syria issues ultimatum to splinter group

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 6:59 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Radical Islamist group in Syria is warned to accept arbitration or leave country
  • ISIS wants to form an Islamist state in Syria
  • Even al Qaeda's main leadership rejected the group's violent tactics

(CNN) -- The head of an al Qaeda-inspired militia fighting in Syria is giving a radical splinter group five days to end infighting and accept arbitration from Sunni clerics or face expulsion from the region, according to an audio message posted online Tuesday.

Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, the chief of al-Nusra Front, called on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to stop turning its guns on its allies and return to the fold of al Qaeda's central command.

"I swear by God, if you again refuse God's judgment, and do not stop your plague and pushing your ignorant ideology on the Muslim nation then you will be expelled, even from Iraq," al-Jolani said in the more than eight-minute message produced by al-Nusra Front's media wing al-Manara al-Baydha.

Earlier this month, even top al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri weighed in on the situation, and the group's central leadership posted a notice online saying ISIS "is not a branch of the al Qaeda group."

ISIS rule with fear in battle for Syria
The brutal tactics used in Syria's war
Al Qaeda 'disowns' affiliate, 'a PR move'

The al-Nusra Front and ISIS are both fighting in Syria. Al-Nusra and other Islamist insurgents argue that the toppling of President Bashar al-Assad's government is the top priority, but ISIS wants the formation of a radical Islamist state to be the main goal.

Apparently, ISIS also has been fighting against al-Nusra members and against civilians who support the opposition.

A conflict in Islamic jurisprudence appears at the core of the long-standing dispute between the Iraqi-born extremist group and its former comrades in al Qaeda.

"Know that we have patiently waited for a whole year while you committed violations, made false accusations, and misconstrued the truth to justify your greater corruption. We relinquished many of our rights," al-Jolani said in the audio message. "You know that until now we have not turned away from the frontlines or fighting the regime as you have done."

The order comes just two days after a suicide bombing allegedly carried out by ISIS killed a mediator representing al-Zawahiri in northern Syria.

Abu Khaled al-Souri's assassination dashed hopes for a political resolution to months of open warfare between ISIS and rebel factions that has claimed the lives of at least 2,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and culminated in the expulsion of the renegade group from al Qaeda's general command earlier this month.

"Al-Zawahiri is clearly fed up with ISIS's open rejection of his overall leadership of the al Qaeda network. Moreover, he is likely quite concerned about how ISIS is alienating ordinary Syrians by a brutal campaign that has involved the public beheading of opponents and the imposition of Taliban-style rule on the population, including the banning of smoking, music and unveiled women in public," Peter Bergen, a national security analyst for CNN, wrote earlier this month.

The bad blood between the two groups started last April when ISIS Chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced his group's expansion into Syria and claimed to absorb al-Nusra Front into his ranks. Tensions rose after al Baghdadi openly refused to heed al-Zawahiri's directive to disband and leave Syria.

Analysts say the factional fighting strengthens the government's hand in the country's nearly three-year civil war by distracting insurgents from engaging in combat with Syrian troops and diverting resources and manpower to the war within a war.

READ: Al Qaeda link to shoe-bomb warning

READ: A terror group too brutal for al Qaeda?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT