Al-Qaeda has renewed its pledge of allegiance to Mullah Omar and the Taliban, in a move that will be viewed as a snub to the Islamic State and its Caliphate.
The statement, issued in a new online magazine, is the movement’s first official response to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his blitzkrieg advance through Syria and Iraq.
It suggests al-Qaeda will not easily relinquish its place as the assumed leader of the global jihad.
“The first edition begins by renewing the pledge of allegiance to Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, may Allah preserve him, and confirming that al-Qaeda and its branches everywhere are soldiers among his soldiers,” according to a translation published by the Site Intelligence Group.
The bulletin, called al-Nafir (or “call to arms”) was released this week by al-Qaeda’s media arm, although it was written some weeks ago.
It lists countries where al-Qaeda says it is committed to defending muslims.
“Your blood is our blood, your wounds are our wounds, and your martyrs, your wounded, your orphans, and your widows are our sons, our brothers, and our sisters,” it continues.
It offers the latest insight into the struggle for leadership of the global jihadist movement since Baghdadi declared a caliphate last month, anointing himself head of the world’s Muslims.
His group has seized swaths of territory in Iraq in recent weeks, piling pressure on al-Qaeda, which controls little ground and, according to analysts, has struggled to retain influence and relevance after the Arab Spring and death of Osama bin Laden. Its senior leadership has also been hit badly by drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Such is Baghdadi’s confidence that he was able to emerge from the shadows to lead prayers at Mosul’s Grand Mosque earlier this month.
Western analysts fear al-Qaeda and its affiliates – particularly the master bombmakers of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – may be pressured into launching a spectacular terrorist attack in order to wrest back their dominant position.
Last week, the Afghan Taliban issued a coded statement urging Islamist fighters in Iraq and Syria against extremism, in an apparent rebuke to the Islamic State.