A group calling itself “al Qaeda in Kurdistan” sided with al Qaeda’s emir against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham in the ongoing dispute over control of the jihad in Syria. In doing so, the group also renewed its pledge of “allegiance” to Ayman al Zawahiri and Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, and said it would fight the ISIS if needed.
Al Qaeda in Kurdistan released its statement on a jihadist forum on April 25, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained and translated it.
“We give the glad tidings to the Ummah of the renewal of pledging allegiance to the Sheikh of the Mujahideen, the wise man of the Ummah [Muslim community], Doctor Ayman al Zawahiri, may Allah make his foothold firm, and on top the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar, may Allah preserve him, to listen and obey in enthusiasm and reluctance for jihad in the cause of Allah,” the al Qaeda in Kurdistan statement said, according to SITE.
Al Qaeda in Kurdistan offered to “disavow from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham,” the former al Qaeda affiliate that was recently denounced by al Qaeda’s General Command.
“[T]here is nothing between us and them but the sword. We consider the disavowal from the group of the State to be like a surgical operation on the body and the structure of Qaedat al-Jihad and, Allah permitting, it will be a healing for us and an increase in our life,” al Qaeda in Kurdistan said.
The group also expressed its “condolences and consolation” for Abu Khalid al Suri, Zawahiri’s personal representative to Syria who was killed in a suspected ISIS suicide attack earlier this year.
The composition of al Qaeda in Kurdistan is unclear, but this may be the group that the US calls “Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions.”
Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions was “established in 2007 from the remnants of other Kurdish terrorist organizations,” and “has sworn allegiance publicly to other terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq,” the ISIS’s predecessor, according to the US State Department’s designation of the terrorist group in January 2012.
“QKB [Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions] is comprised of former elements of Ansar al Islam, and other Kurdish Islamic movements loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) — also known as AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq],” Jason Blazakis, the Director of the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Office of Terrorist Designations and Sanctions, told The Long War Journal at the time of the designation.
Al Qaeda in Kurdistan’s split with the ISIS emerges as rumors have surfaced that the Al Nusrah Front for the people of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, will establish a branch inside Iraq.
The Al Nusrah Front’s emir, Abu Muhammad al Julani, has been at odds with Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the ISIS, after the latter attempted to subsume the Al Nusrah Front into the Islamic State in April 2013. Al Julani refused, and was backed by Zawahiri.
Al Qaeda has attempted to mediate the dispute and has called on the ISIS to submit to sharia, or Islamic, courts in order to resolve the problems. Al Baghdadi has refused, and the ISIS and Al Nusrah began clashing in late 2013.