Al Nusrah Front emir issues ultimatum to ISIS

The leader of the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, warned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham to end its attacks on jihadist and rebel units in Syria or the groups will destroy the ISIS in both Syria and in Iraq. The statement by Al Nusrah emir Abu Muhammad al Julani took place after Ayman al Zawahiri’s emissary was killed in a suicide attack over the weekend.

Al Julani made the threats in an audiotape that was released by the Al Nusrah Front today. His ultimatum gave ISIS five days to come to an agreement or face a concerted effort to “banish it” from both Syria and Iraq. Al Qaeda’s general command recently disowned ISIS as it would not agree to mediate its disputes with the Al Nusrah Front and other groups. The ISIS has been clashing with the Al Nusrah Front, the Islamic Front, and remnants of the Free Syrian Army in several provinces.

“If you refuse God’s ruling, and do not cease afflicting the ummah (Muslim community), it will act against this aggressive, ignorant way of thinking and banish it – even from Iraq,” al Julani warned the ISIS, according to the BBC, which obtained the statement.

Al Julani also accused the ISIS of killing Abu Khalid al Suri, a.k.a. Mohamed Bahaiah, who once served as Osama bin Laden’s courier and was appointed by Zawahiri to represent him in Syria. Bahaiah was a founding member of Ahrar al Sham and a senior leader in the organization before he was killed on Feb. 22 in a suicide attack in Aleppo. Ahrar al Sham is arguably the most powerful rebel organization within the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist rebel groups that was formed late last year.

“We say to his killers: may your hands perish and your deed be damned. You, those who give you your orders, and those who write your fatwas are wretched, O deceived ones,” al Julani said.

He also said the ISIS had “abandoned the fight against the Nusayris,” or Alawites, a Shia sect that backs Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in order to fight the rebel groups.

Al Julani’s warning that the ISIS will be targeted in both Iraq and Syria indicates there may be dissent within the leadership of ISIS as well as its rank and file over the very public dispute between the two jihadist groups that resulted in the ISIS’ ouster from al Qaeda. The ISIS surged in Iraq over the past year, and since January has seized control of many areas in Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah. A split within the ISIS as well as open warfare with the Syrian jihadist groups would jeopardize ISIS gains in Iraq.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Anthony Celso says:

    By killing Abu Khalid al-Suri ISIS has made a bold challenge for leadership of the global jihadi movement and displace Zawahiri as “Emir”. Let us hope that the Al Nusrah Front makes good on its pledge to exterminate ISIS for the in-fighting within Al Qaeda greatly weakens the jihadi movement and is symptomatic of their self-destructive tendencies. This is good news for the West that needs to pit these groups against each other and reinforce intra-organizational centrifugal pressures. Al Qaeda’s fragmenting position in Syria is similar to the splits with the Algerian GIA in the 1990’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s 1979-1982 Syrian insurgency.

  • Paul D says:

    win win situation

  • Afaerl says:

    It’s a fraud!
    The Mujahedeen are intentionally dividing their command. Nusra will keep the Syrian front static, whilst ISIL will go for Israel in the Golan.

  • larry says:

    Got my popcorn and extra large Mountain Dew ready. This looks like it’s gonna be a fun show!

  • Bruce says:

    Following up on this, a high ranking member of Al Qaida in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP) issued a strong statement in response to Joulani;s ultimatum, saying amongst other things that a ‘war on ISIS is a declaration of war on al-Qa’ida’. It seems we’re looking at a full shift away from Zawahiri who is essentially the only remaining Al Qaeda figure who is presumably holed up somewhere in the Af-Pak region – and towards Yemen AQ figures challenging for leadership of the AQ brand while rallying around the ISIS. AQ’s other affiliates seem to be showing strong support for ISIS, as well. Altogether, this doesn’t bode well for Jabhat Al Nusra in the region if AQ’s local affiliates (Yemen, Maghreb, Somalia) call them to the carpet and support ISIS. Here’s the statement: Message from a Qadi of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula to Sheikh Jowlani


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