BEIRUT: The leader of al-Qaeda has ordered the re-organization of jihadist efforts in Syria and Iraq by abolishing the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and giving the Nusra Front sole responsibility for activities in war-torn Syria.
In an audio tape relayed via Al-Jazeera television on Friday, Ayman Zawahiri lays out 14 points to resolve the rivalry between the two al-Qaeda-inspired groups.
The Nusra Front first emerged in early 2012 and is now believed to be led by Abu Mohammad Golani.
In April of this year, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced the formation of ISIS and said that the Nusra Front had merged with his group. Golani denied the news the following day, while maintaining that his group remained loyal to al-Qaeda.
Zawahiri blamed the leaders of both groups for acting without the knowledge of the central al-Qaeda leadership.
"Abu Bakr Baghdadi erred by announcing the formation of ISIS without consulting or informing us... Jolani erred by rejecting ISIS ... without consulting or informing us," Zawahiri says in the first two points.
In the next four points, Zawhiri orders the abolishment of ISIS and says it should continue as the earlier Islamic State of Iraq, while the Nusra Front should continue as an "independent branch" of al-Qaeda. Zawahiri then specifies the "wilaya makaniyya," or area of political activity, for each group: the Islamic State of Iraq should confine itself to Iraq, with the Nusra Front given sole authority for Syria.
In points seven and eight, Zawahiri announces that both leaders, Baghdadi and Golani, are appointed to head their respective groups as "emirs" for a period of one year.
After that, the Shura council of each jihadist organization will file a report on their performances with the central al-Qaeda leadership, which will decide whether to retain them or transfer them elsewhere.
In points nine and ten, Zawahiri instructs each group to support the other "with men, weapons and money" and in the final four points, the al-Qaeda leader makes a series of pleas for attacks against jihadists and Muslims at large without sufficient legal evidence.
During the re-shuffle, Zawahiri adds, "Muslims should not be persecuted for switching allegiance, even if they are mistaken" in doing so.
The shedding of blood of innocent Muslims, he concludes, will be dealt with severely.
Both jihadist groups have undertaken attacks against Syrian regime forces and at times cooperated with each other and with other Islamist and mainstream Free Syrian Army rebel groups. But they have also engaged in infighting and actions against Syrian civilians that have raised the ire of the mainstream opposition.