DUBAI - Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri has intervened in a dispute between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of his network, telling both to "stop arguing," Qatar-based Al Jazeera television reported.
Al-Qaida in Iraq announced in April that it had united with Syria's Nusra Front, which now spearheads the fight against President Bashar Assad. This upset Nusra, which affirmed its loyalty to Zawahri but said it had not been told of any merger.
Nusra leaders, aware that many Syrians had joined the Front because of its military prowess, rather than for ideological reasons, had previously sought to minimize the use of tactics such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Islamist crackdowns which had alienated many Iraqis from al-Qaida in Iraq during the struggle against the US-led occupation after 2003.
According to a letter purportedly from Zawahri and posted on Al Jazeera's website, the al-Qaida leader annulled the merger declared by the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying each group was separate.
"The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is cancelled, and work continues under the name the Islamic State of Iraq," he said in the letter posted on the website on Sunday night.
"The Nusra Front for the People of the Levant is an independent branch" of al-Qaida, Zawahri said, urging both groups to "stop arguing in this dispute, and to stop the harassment among the Muslims".