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Middle East

ISIS slams Zawahri, refuses to quit Syria

New Free Syrian Army recruits receive military training in Deraa province May 12, 2014. (REUTERS/Mohamed Fares)

BAGHDAD/BEIRUT: The Syria branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has sharply criticized the global terror network’s leader, rejecting his call for them to leave the war-ravaged country.

An audio recording, purportedly made by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, also urged Ayman al-Zawahri to remove the leader of the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

“Sheikh Osama gathered all the mujahedeen [holy warriors] with one word, but you divided them and tore them apart,” Adnani said in the audio statement posted on jihadist forums Sunday, referring to Zawahri’s predecessor Osama bin Laden.

The authenticity of the recording could not be immediately verified.

It was revealed Monday that France is asking the U.N. Security Council to refer the civil war to the International Criminal Court in for investigation of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes.

A proposed resolution circulated to council members condemns the widespread violation of human rights and international humanitarian law by Syrian authorities, pro-government militias and “nonstate armed groups” since March 2011, and calls for referral to the Hague-based tribunal.

The draft, obtained by the Associated Press, notes statements by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that crimes against humanity and war crimes are likely to have been committed during the conflict. The council is due to meet Wednesday to discuss the draft and it could be voted on within days, diplomats said.

Several diplomats say Russia, Syria’s closest ally and a permanent council member, is likely to veto the resolution. They were speaking on condition of anonymity because the council has not yet discussed the draft.

Qatar’s foreign minister said the Security Council should impose a cease-fire to end the bloodshed in Syria and accused the regime of using poison gas against rebel-held areas.

“It is imperative that the U.N. Security Council assume its responsibilities and force the implementation of its resolutions for a cease-fire, to protect the Syrian people from killing and displacement,” Khalid al-Attiyah told participants in the Doha Forum.

He accused Assad’s government of using “poison gas, in a flagrant challenge to the international community and in violation of international laws.”

The international community should help the Syrian people “realize its legitimate aspirations for [political] change” and protect Syria’s territorial integrity, he added.

Egypt’s presidential front-runner Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said the Syrian civil war must be resolved through peaceful means, indicating Egypt would not support an armed intervention there, something previously suggested by some Arab states.

Asked about his views on the Syrian conflict, Sisi said: “We have to find a peaceful exit as a solution.”

Sisi’s comments, in an interview with Sky News Arabia, indicate Egypt’s future stance on Syria if the former army chief wins, as expected, a presidential vote on May 26-27.

In the audiotape, Adnani called on Zawahri to replace Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, warning: “Either you continue with your mistake and remain stubborn, and the division and fighting among the mujahedeen will continue, or you confess to your mistake and correct it.”

“You make the mujahedeen sad, and make the enemy of the mujahedeen gloat because you support the traitor [Jolani], and you make the heart bleed – you are the one who instigated the strife, and you have to extinguish it. Review yourself and stand in front of God to correct what you have ruined.”

He also rejected the latest of Zawahri’s multiple calls that ISIS restrict its activities to Iraq, stating that this was “impossible because it is unreasonable, unrealistic and illegitimate.”

Heavy fighting continued Monday between ISIS and Nusra in the eastern province bordering Iraq, forcing many residents to flee, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting concentrated in the east of Deir al-Zor province. An activist based in the province who goes by the name of Abdul-Aziz Sheikh said many tribesmen have joined the battle on the side of the Nusra Front, which is fighting ISIS.

In Deir al-Zor province, no side has made major gains since last week’s capture of much of the western parts by ISIS, according to the Observatory and Sheikh.

Sheikh said that last week, powerful tribal leaders called on both sides to agree on a truce that would begin Saturday. The Nusra Front agreed while ISIS gave no answer, making many tribes turn against them.

“People are fleeing in boats from the eastern side to the west of the river,” he said via Skype, referring to the Euphrates River.

ISIS has been clashing with the Nusra Front, their former allies, for nearly two weeks in Deir al-Zor. On top of recent ISIS gains in Deir al-Zor, Nusra lost control of Raqqa – the only rebel-held city in Syria – to ISIS in January. If ISIS can take the entire Deir al-Zor province, it will control territory across Syria and into Iraq.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 13, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

The Syria branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has sharply criticized the global terror network's leader, rejecting his call for them to leave the war-ravaged country.

An audio recording, purportedly made by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, also urged Ayman al-Zawahri to remove the leader of the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.

Sheikh said that last week, powerful tribal leaders called on both sides to agree on a truce that would begin Saturday. The Nusra Front agreed while ISIS gave no answer, making many tribes turn against them.

On top of recent ISIS gains in Deir al-Zor, Nusra lost control of Raqqa – the only rebel-held city in Syria – to ISIS in January. If ISIS can take the entire Deir al-Zor province, it will control territory across Syria and into Iraq.


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