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Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri calls ISIS ‘liars’

Egyptian extremist accuses ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of slandering his group

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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has denounced what he said was a dishonest propaganda campaign by rival group ISIS against his organization, in an audio message released Thursday. In the message found and translated by US-based watchdog the SITE Intelligence Group, the Egyptian extremist accuses ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of slandering his group.

In his message, the 65-year-old Zawahiri complained that Al-Baghdadi had alleged that Al-Qaeda opposes sectarian attacks on Shiites and was prepared to work with Christian leaders.

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“The liars insist upon their falsehood, to the extent that they claimed we do not denounce Shiites,” Zawahiri said, according to the translation of the message, which was released by Al-Qaeda’s media arm. Zawahiri denied he had said that Christians could be partners in the governance of a future Islamic caliphate, having only said that they could go about their affairs within it.

“What I have said is that they are partners in the land, such as agriculture, trade, and money, and we keep their privacy in it, in accordance with the laws of our Sharia,” he said. And he insisted he had not called for Shiite Muslims to be spared, but had suggested focusing attacks on Shiite-led Iraqi forces and not on random atrocities against civilians.

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“I had told them several times to stop explosions in markets, husseiniyats and mosques, and to concentrate on military, security and police forces and Shiite militiamen,” he said. A husseiniyat is a Shiite place of worship and the Iraqi security forces, in their battle against ISIS, are backed by Shiite religious militias.

Zawahiri also denied Al-Baghdadi’s charge that Al-Qaeda had supported ousted former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who attempted to rule through the ballot box. Thursday’s message did not include any footage of Zawahiri speaking.