Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said he is not against cooperating with the Islamic State although he said Muslims are not required by Islam to join the jihadist group, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday.
"Despite the big mistakes of ISIS militants, if I were in Iraq or Syria I would cooperate with them in killing the crusaders and secularists and Shiites even though I don't recognize the legitimacy of their state, because the matter is bigger than that," Zawahiri said in a new sound recording released by Al-Qaeda’s official media wing.
This is the first message from the Al-Qaida leader since August when Zawahiri pledged allegiance to the Taliban's new leader, Mullah Akhtar. Zawahiri had previosuly recognized the Taliban's former leader, Mullah Omar, as caliph. The recording could have been made up to eight months earlier, the Reuters news agency reported.
Zawahiri announced the creation of an Al-Qaida branch in India earlier this month. The terror group increasingly finds itself overshadowed internationally by the Islamic State, which holds one- third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate.
The new statement comes after US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in July that a US airstrike had killed a senior Al-Qaeda commander known as Abu Khalil Al-Sudani in eastern Afghanistan.
Carter called Sudani a senior member of the group and head of Al-Qaeda's suicide bombing operations. He claimed Sudani was directly linked to plots to attack the United States.
He said Sudani also directed operations against the US-led coalition as well ad Afghan and Pakistani forces, and maintained a close association with Zawahiri.