CAIRO (AP) -- The official spokesman of an al-Qaida-breakaway group has strongly criticized its parent organization's head, Ayman al-Zawahri, for siding with a rival jihadi group in Syria.
In an audio message posted on militant websites late Sunday, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, accused al-Zawahri of being responsible "for shedding Muslim blood" and urged him to step down for the election of another leader. The tone and level of criticism against al-Zawahri by a fellow jihadi were rare.
The crisis escalated after al-Zawahri recognized the Nusra Front as al-Qaida's official branch in Syria and urged the Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to withdraw his men from there. He also ordered the establishment of an independent Islamic court to settle the issue, a move rejected by al-Baghdadi.
Al-Adnani considered the decision by al-Zawahri a "fatal mistake" that led to infighting between the two groups. Over 3,000 have been killed in the fighting over the past months.
"We call on you to undo your fatal mistake ... because you are the one who kindled sedition, you are the one who will extinguish it," al-Adnani told al-Zawahri.
Al-Adnani urged the selection of a new al-Qaida leader.
"Isn't there any wise Muslim on earth to be chosen by Muslims as a leader... ending this fragmentation and discord?" he asked. "He would be the one to form this new court... this is the solution and there is no other one."
He also criticized al-Zawahri for not calling on Muslims "to fight against Egypt's renegade army, the army of el-Sissi the new pharaoh."
He was referring to Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt's former military chief who is poised to win the presidency in elections later this month after deposing Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer.
Al-Adnani told al-Zawahri that al-Qaida's late leader, Osama bin Laden: "managed to maintain the unity of the Muslim word and you scattered it."
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