BEIRUT: Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for fighters in Syria to end the infighting that killed a one-time companion of Osama bin Laden earlier this year, according to an audio tape posted online.
In the message, Zawahiri mourned the death of Abu Khaled al-Soury, who was killed by an al Qaeda splinter group in a suicide attack in February, and lamented the “strife of the blind that has befallen the blessed land of the Levant.”
Soury was one of the highest-profile victims of rebel infighting that surged at the start of the year, pitting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against rival rebels including other hardline Islamists.
Some 4,000 people have been killed in the clashes, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The fighting has hindered the battle against President Bashar al-Assad and pushed rival rebel groups to consolidate power in their respective areas of control.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the Zawahiri tape, which was posted on Friday, but the voice resembled that of the al Qaeda leader.
Al Qaeda said it was breaking with ISIL in February after disputes over the group’s refusal to limit itself to fighting in Iraq rather than in Syria, where the Nusra Front is al Qaeda’s affiliate.