The leader of al-Qaida is calling Islamic State jihadist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a pretender who has declared himself a caliph "by force and with explosions and car bombs," and says his group does not acknowledge the ISIS caliphate.
"We do not see Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as one worthy of the Caliphate," Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a blistering message issued this week, according to a translation from SITE Intelligence, reports CNN.
Baghdadi declared himself as the leader, Zawahiri said, through the support of "only a few unknown people" and did not establish his group "by the choice of the people" through their "approval and consultation.'
"It's a major broadside against the Islamic State," former State Department counterterrorism adviser William McCants, who is now with the Brookings Institution, told CNN. "Zawahiri is clearly very angry and frustrated that the Islamic State has been attacking him, attacking his soldiers on the ground, attacking him personally."
The al-Qaida leader also condemned al-Baghdadi for not supporting Muslims who fall outside territory held by ISIS.
"When Gaza was burning beneath Israeli bombs, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not support it with one word, but his main concern was that all the mujahideen pledge allegiance to him, after he assigned himself to be the Caliph without consulting them," al-Zawahiri complained in the missive.
He also accused the ISIS leader of encouraging al-Qaida's followers to abandon their pledges and join ISIS.
According to Nicholas Palarino of Georgetown University, al-Zawahiri obviously is feeling threatened.
"You can compare it to two drug gangs, or two mafia mobs," he told CNN. "One is encroaching on the other's territory."
ISIS is also more popular with extremists, said Palarino, as al-Qaida, the older group, is more about "plotting and planning," ISIS and al-Baghdadi are "demonstrating results."
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, though, said he believes the growing competition will be more dangerous for the United States, as the two groups may start trying to outdo one another.
And there's always the danger that the the two groups could still work together, as al-Zawahiri in his recording didn't reject the possibility of fighting with ISIS against "the Crusaders" if he was in Iraq or Syria.
However, a counterterrorism official, speaking anonymously to CNN, said that the distrust between the two jihadist leaders means that they probably won't unite against the United States.
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