Middle East

Rival group accuses Al-Qaeda of betraying jihadist cause

A member of the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra fires during clashes with Syrian forces in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus April 8, 2014. Picture taken April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Ammar Al-Bushy

BAGHDAD: A powerful rival organization has accused Al-Qaeda leaders of betraying the jihadist cause, in the latest widening of divisions rooted in Syria's civil war.

"Al-Qaeda today is no longer a base of jihad (holy war)," Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in a statement posted on jihadist forums.

"Its leadership has become a hammer to break the project of the Islamic State," Adnani said, adding that "the leaders of Al-Qaeda have deviated from the correct path."

"They have divided the ranks of the mujahideen (holy warriors) in every place," he said.

Powerful rebel groups in Syria, including Al-Qaeda's designated affiliate Al-Nusra Front, have been locked in fierce fighting with ISIS since January that has killed thousands of fighters.

ISIS was initially welcomed by other rebels, who have been fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, but allegations of brutal abuses against civilians as well as rival opposition fighters sparked a backlash.

Some critics of ISIS have gone so far as to accuse it of serving the interests of Assad's regime by splitting rebel ranks and tarnishing the image of the uprising in the West.

Both Al-Nusra and ISIS have roots in Al-Qaeda's onetime Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq.

But the two have never merged, with Al-Nusra's leader rejecting a union proposed by ISIS, and Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urging ISIS to return to Iraq after its fighters moved into Syria.





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