Al-Qaeda's top commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, on an audiotape he released, urged the Islamists fighting in the Syrian civil war to put an end to their violence against one another such as the killing of a former Osama bin Laden lieutenant that occurred in February of this year, according to news reports on Saturday.
Saturday's tape is the second one calling for an end to Islamists killing one another. In October 2013, as reported by the Examiner, Zawahiri released a similar message.
In the audiotape by bin Laden's successor, Zawahiri is heard mourning the death of his friend and fellow bin Laden confidante, Abu Khaled al-Soury. According to news reports, Soury was slain by an al-Qaeda splinter group during a suicide attack in February.
Soury remains one of the highest ranking Islamists to be a casualty of rebel infighting that has been growing steadily since the beginning of 2014, the Examiner reported.
The group that has been at the forefront of these attacks is known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and many of its members were part of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQII). The ISIS has fought against rival rebel groups including other hardline Islamists such as the Syria-based Al-Nusra Front.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, upwards of 4,000 rebel fighters were killed as a result of infighting between ISIS and Al-Nusra. As a result, Zawahri claims, the battle against the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is faltering, with his army winning one battle after another.
“Today this strife requires that all Muslims stand up against it and form a general view against it and against all who do not accept the independent sharia arbitration,” Zawahiri said in the taped message.
In a previous audiotape released in October 2013, Zawahiri made a similar appeal to ISIS and Al-Nusra, according to an Examiner news story. He also called for the creation of a caliphate in Syria.
Al-Qaeda announced in February that it was breaking with ISIS after arguments began about the ISIS refusing to continue the fighting in Iraq rather than entering the Syrian civil war which was being handled by al-Qaeda's affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, as described in an April 2013 Examiner news story.
In his audio tape, Zawahiri memorialized Soury saying he was a major asset in the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, "U.S. and European officials say the most powerful anti-Assad factions are militant groups such as the Al-Nusrah and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, some of which either have links to al-Qaeda or are so extreme that even al-Qaeda has denounced them."