Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has rejected recent allegations made by the Islamic State (Isis) group that al-Qaeda opposes attacks on Shias and was prepared to partner with Christian leaders. He also called the rival group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, "liars", according to an audio message released on Thursday (5 January).
The message, released by al-Qaeda's media arm, was found and translated by US-based watchdog the SITE Intelligence Group.
According to the translation, al-Zawahiri said: "The liars insist upon their falsehood, to the extent that they claimed we do not denounce Shiites."
He also said he did not advocate sparing Shia Muslims from attacks, but had suggested that attacks should mainly focus on Shia-led Iraqi forces in place of some random civilians.
"I had told them several times to stop explosions in markets, husseiniyats [Shia places of worships] and mosques, and to concentrate on military, security and police forces and Shiite militiamen," the translation by SITE, reported by Agence France Press, quoted him as saying.
Al-Zawahiri also denied IS (Daesh) allegations that he had said Christians could be partners in the governance of a future Islamic caliphate. "What I have said is that they are partners in the land, such as agriculture, trade, and money, and we keep their privacy in it, in accordance with the laws of our Sharia," he reportedly said.
Besides, the al-Qaeda chief denied charges levelled by al-Baghdadi that al-Qaeda had lent support to ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was removed from office by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following a coup in 2013.
According to a Twitter post by Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, the audio speech by the al-Qaeda chief was titled, "To other than Allah we will not bow".
The message from the Egyptian leader of the Islamist militant group, which has been struggling to revive its position following the elimination of their former leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, is yet another testimony to the prevailing competition between the two major jihadi groups in the world.
Al-Zawahiri, who had earlier called for the two groups to unite in creating an Islamic caliphate, is now attempting to re-establish the group's supremacy.
He had warned the US in September, ahead of the anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda under bin Laden's leadership, that it will carry out more such attacks on US soil.