Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri called on rival militant factions in Syria to unite or risk death and described DAESH terrorists as "extremists" in an audio recording posted online on Sunday.
Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden after he was killed in a US raid in 2011, and has the allegiance of Al Qaeda branches in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
"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," Zawahri said in the 10 minute audio message.
The Al Qaeda leader called on to “mujahideen” to go to Levant and to form a proper “Islamic government” that would open the way for a “caliphate.”
Zawahiri also praised Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Nusra Front, which has been fighting the Syrian regime and controls areas in the north of the country.
Nusra Front is cooperating with other armed groups in northern Syria under an alliance called Jaish al Fatah, but it failed to convince rival groups to merge into a single organisation.
In the message, Zawahiri emphasised the differences between Al Qaeda and DAESH and called the latter “extremists and renegades.”
He referred to DAESH terrorists as “Kharijites,” a term used to describe a group considered deviant that emerged shortly after the death of Prophet Muhammad.
Once an affiliate of Al Qaeda, DAESH broke away in 2013 due to a power struggle among leaders and emerged as an important rival for influence and power, after the terrorist group captured large swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
DAESH has active affiliates in countries like Libya, Yemen and Egypt.