Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Aal-Zawahiri denounced Daesh for a dishonest propaganda campaign in an audio message released yesterday.
In the message, translated by US-based watchdog the SITE Intelligence Group, the head of Al-Qaeda accused Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi of slandering his group.
The two groups separated in 2014 having founded the first incarnation of Daesh known as the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006, following major differences in strategy.
In his message, the 65-year-old raised a number of complaints against Al-Baghdadi.
Puzzlingly, Al-Zawahiri responded to what he described as allegation that Al-Qaeda opposes sectarian attacks on Shias and was prepared to work with Christian leaders. “The liars insist upon their falsehood, to the extent that they claimed we do not denounce Shias,” said Al-Zawahiri, before clarifying his position that Christians could be partners in the governance of a future Islamic caliphate and 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.
Al-Zawahiri also spoke about one of the main causes of the split between the groups by insisting that he had not called for Shia Muslims to be spared, but had suggested focusing attacks on Shia-led Iraqi forces and not on random atrocities against civilians.
“I had told them several times to stop explosions in markets, husseiniyats [Shia place of worship] and mosques, and to concentrate on military, security and police forces and Shia militiamen,” he said.
Al-Zawahiri also denied Al-Baghdadi’s charge that Al-Qaeda had supported ousted former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who attempted to rule through the ballot box.