Washington: Al Qaida leader Ayman Al Zawahiri has denounced what he said was a dishonest propaganda campaign by rival militant group Daesh against his organization, in an audio message released Thursday.
In the message found and translated by US-based watchdog the SITE Intelligence Group, the Egyptian extremist accuses Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi of slandering his group.
Al Qaida, founded by the late Osama Bin Laden, is locked in a battle with Daesh — which sprang from its Iraqi faction — for the leadership of global terrorism.
In his message, the 65-year-old Zawahiri complained that Al Baghdadi had alleged that Al Qaida opposes sectarian attacks on Shiites and was prepared to work with Christian leaders.
“The liars insist upon their falsehood, to the extent that they claimed we do not denounce Shiites,” Al Zawahiri said, according to the translation of the message, which was released by Al Qaida’s media arm.
Al Zawahiri denied he had said that Christians could be partners in the governance of a future caliphate, having only said that they could go about their affairs within it.
“What I have said is that they are partners in the land, such as agriculture, trade, and money, and we keep their privacy in it, in accordance with the laws of our Sharia,” he said.
And he insisted he had not called for Shiite Muslims to be spared, but had suggested focusing attacks on Shiite-led Iraqi forces and not on random atrocities against civilians.
“I had told them several times to stop explosions in markets, husseiniyats and mosques, and to concentrate on military, security and police forces and Shiite militiamen,” he said.
Daesh and Al Qaida have both carried out hundreds of attacks on civilian targets, but some Al Qaida propaganda has called for less indiscriminate tactics.
Al Zawahiri also denied Al Baghdadi’s charge that Al Qaida had supported ousted former Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi, an Islamist who attempted to rule through the ballot box.
The Al Qaida leader, who took charge after Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011, is thought to be somewhere in Pakistan’s unruly border region hiding from a global manhunt.
He communicates with the group’s remaining supporters through semi-regular video lectures, reiterating — as in his latest message — the need to target the United States.
But Thursday’s message did not include any footage of Al Zawahiri speaking.
The audio message restated the urgency of this goal but also argued for a dialogue on tactics with other militants.
“We are not infallible, but we are human beings and we hit and we miss. We must listen to advice,” he admitted, while rejecting Al Baghdadi’s criticism.