In an online post, the successor to Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri, decried his fellow Sunni Muslim militant group, ISIS, as extremists.
Al Qaeda’s supremacy in the region has been under assault from ISIS during the last few years as ISIS has assumed control of regions in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
The Nusra Front, an offshoot of al Qaeda, and ISIS were a single group prior to 2013, when they split primarily because of a leadership power struggle. The Nusra Front and ISIS are the most powerful groups fighting government forces in the region.
Al Qaeda has support from branches across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Al-Zawahri urged ISIS to conform, “We have to want the unity of the Mujahideen in Sham (Syria) so it will be liberated from the Russians and Western crusaders. My brothers … the matter of unity is a matter of life or death for you.”
The Nusra Front unsuccessfully attempted in January to merge rival Islamist groups into one unit.
It is believed al Zawahri has been in hiding in a border area between Afganistan and Pakistan.