Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the terror organization al Qaeda, declared war against ISIS this week in an audio message this week just before the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Al-Zawahiri, who replaced Osama bin Laden as al Qaeda's leader when he was killed four years ago, charged Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, with "sedition" for claiming he was the leader of all Muslims, reported The Mirror
"We have endured a lot of harm from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers, and we preferred to respond with as little as possible, out of our concern to extinguish the fire of sedition," al-Zawahiri said in the audio.
"But Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers did not leave us a choice, for they have demanded that all the mujahideen reject their confirmed pledges of allegiance, and to pledge allegiance to them for what they claim of a caliphate," said the al Qaeda leader.
Rob O'Neill, the former Navy SEAL who claimed he killed bin Laden, told Fox News
talk show host Greta Van Susteren that since both groups are considered Salafi Sunni Muslims, the rift between the two organizations appeared unusual.
The Islamic State has grown in captured area and popularity in the Middle East since breaking off from al Qaeda as its affiliate in Iraq two years ago, according to Fox News Insider. O'Neill said the war declaration may be just for publicity and funding for al-Qaeda.
Al-Baghdadi claimed he was leader of all Muslims and militant jihad as the "caliph" for the Islamic State 14 months ago, said ABC News
Matthew Olsen, former director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, said it was "pretty interesting" that al-Zawarhiri would wait until now to make his point.
"Zawahiri until now has not been willing to openly condemn Baghdadi and ISIS," said Olsen. "It highlights how deep the division is between al Qaeda leadership and ISIS. It suggests that the differences are irreconcilable."
Nicholas Palarino, a retired senior congressional counter-terrorism adviser, told ABC News that the split could provide a chance for others in the area to chip away at the stranglehold on the region by al Qaeda and ISIS.
"Moderate Muslims need to exploit this rift," said Palarino. "The leaders of Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt can explain the differences between these two groups to the world's Muslims."
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