The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) reached out to other rebel groups in Syria to head off infighting, an audio message posted online Sunday and quoted by AFP said.
“Today, the (Islamic) state is reaching out to you to stop fighting us, to focus on fighting the nusairiyah,” the voice in the message, purportedly that of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said, using the term often used by jihadists when referring to the Syrian regime.
The remarks mark a shift for ISIS, which said earlier this month it would “crush” opposition fighters and considered members of the Syrian National Coalition and the military command of the Free Syrian Army to be “legitimate targets.”
In recent days, the fighting between ISIS and other Syrian rebels has escalated, with hundreds having been killed in the fighting between rival groups.
Three powerful rebel alliances – among them Islamist groups - have teamed up to fight ISIS, which they have warned is worse than Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
Baghdadi, in the audio message posted on jihadist forums, accused the rebel groups of “betrayal.”
“Anyone who fought against us should review his stance,” he said. “You have stabbed us in the back, as all of our soldiers were on the frontline.”
He continued, referring to various parts of Syria, “We used to have an army who implemented a plan to invade Aleppo and advance to the western front, and we used to have forces in Hama and we used to have forces in Idlib.
“But all of this has stopped in one night because of the betrayal,” he added.
ISIS has executed dozens of rival Islamists as the group recaptured most territory it had lost in the northeastern Syrian province of Raqqa.
ISIS is part of a group of jihadist rebels that declared Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state, leading to a second civil war between moderate rebels and jihadist rebels, in addition to the war between Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces and the rebels.