The head of al-Qaeda in Syria has called for a ceasefire between opposition factions who have clashed for five days in the bloodiest bout of infighting since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began.
An audio recording from the leader of the powerful Nusra Front, who goes by the name Abu Mohammad al-Golani, also laid much of the blame for the fighting on an al-Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
While both groups have roots in the global network and welcome foreign fighters, the Nusra Front has cooperated more with other rebel groups and has largely avoided the power struggles that ISIL has faced since wresting control of many opposition-held areas from other groups.
“The (Muslim) nation was shocked to hear of the internal infighting between the jihadist factions in the past number of days. We believe in an Islam with competing factions but a number of treacherous sides have exploited the current situation to carry out Western plans or for personal gain. We see the majority of the current fighting as a sedition amongst Muslims,” al-Golani said in his audio statement, published on Tuesday.
More than 274 people have been killed in the rebel-on-rebel clashes in Syria since they began on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group.
Golani proposed forming an Islamic legal council to resolve feuds among the rebels and called for the fighters to return to their shared goal of fighting Assad’s forces, as the campaign to oust the Syrian leader nears the end of its third year.
“There should be a ceasefire and compensation awarded for lost lives and money, the groups should be forced to all stand firmly together against any party that fails to adhere to the decision of the Sharia committee once it is taken,” Golani said.
Rebel groups last week launched a series of strikes against ISIL in northern and eastern Syria after months of increasing tensions with the group, which has alienated many Syrians in rebel-held regions.
Golani urged rebels not to become divided between foreign and local fighters, arguing that all were needed to launch jihad, or holy war, in the country.
He urged rebels to exchange prisoners and open roads to all opposition units.