Al-Qaeda in Yemen denounces ‘expansionist’ ISIS

AQAP’s purported spiritual guide al-Nadhari described ISIS expansionist intentions as “driving a wedge” among jihadist groups

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Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch on Friday denounced the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group for declaring a caliphate on territory it seized and for aggressively seeking to expand its area of influence, the Associated Press reported.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which emerged as the group’s most dangerous franchise, had its purported spiritual guide, Sheikh Harith al-Nadhari, criticizing ISIS for seizing territory in Syria and Iraq.

Nadhari said such expansionist intentions are “driving a wedge” among jihadist groups, in reference to ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s recent call for followers to “explode volcanos of jihad everywhere.”

He added: ISIS “forced the nation, all the nation, to pledge allegiance” in absence of “consultation” with other Jihadist leaders.

His message was posted on one of AQAP’s official Twitter pages.

“They revoked the legitimacy of all the Islamic groups across the Islamic world .... and drove a wedge among Mujahedeen ranks by collecting allegiances from within the Jihadi groups,” he said. “They announced the expansion of their caliphate in a number of countries in which they have no mandate.”

ISIS extremists initially fought to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. But other groups, including al-Qaeda central command, disavowed them. A summer ISIS blitz captured nearly a third of Syria and Iraq.

Smaller groups across the region have pledged allegiance to Baghdadi while the larger al-Qaeda affiliates remain silent regarding Baghdadi’s outreach. Among the more significant loyalty pledges came from Egypt’s Ansar Beit al-Maqdis.

AQAP has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland. Washington has frequently launched drone strikes against the group - which captured large parts of Yemen in the security vacuum following the country’s 2011 uprising. A Yemeni government offensive, back and supported by the U.S., has driven the militants from much of the territory they seized.

The group is led by Nasser al-Wahishi, a onetime close associate to Osama bin Laden. In the video message, Nadhari reiterated the group’s allegiance to bin Laden’s successor Ayman al-Zawahri, in defiance of Baghdadi’s outreach initiative.

On Friday, AQAP’s military chief in Yemen has vowed to launch fierce attacks against Shiite Houthi militiamen sweeping across the country, in an audio message posted on jihadist websites.

Earlier this month, AQAP leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi accused the Houthis of collaborating with the United States and Iran to destroy Sunni Muslims.

(With Associated Press)

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