The leader of al-quaeda has attacked the Islamic State for “madness” and “exceeding the limits of extremism, The Independent reported on Friday.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden when he was killed in 2011, criticised IS for killing and “slandering” his own jihadis.
In audio message, he branded the rival group’s members “cowards” and liars with a “thirsty desire for authority”.
“IS was struck with madness in takfir [declaring other Muslims to be apostates] and exceeded the limits of extremism,” al-Zawahiri said.
“They make takfir on the basis of lies, fabrications and even good deeds of obedience…[it is] is political, convenient and opportunistic.”
The extremist, who has had a $25 million (£20 million) bounty on his head since 9/11 and is under global sanctions due to his links to global terror attacks dating back to the 1990s, claimed IS was “misusing the enthusiasm of the youth”.
His message was issued as an audio file in Arabic, being distributed on al-Qaeda channels and then translated and spread by supporters on social media.
It comes as pressure mounts on al-Qaeda’s numerous front groups and allies in Syria, with the US-led coalition increasingly turning its firepower on the group while Isis continues to lose territory.
American defence officials said more than 20 al-Qaeda militants were killed in north-western Syria in two rounds of strikes in the first week of January.
Analysts have observed that international focus on IS has allowed al-Qaeda to gain territory and support largely untroubled by foreign parties in the civil war.