The head of Al-Qaeda said in a new message posted online Sunday that young Muslims should carry out lone wolf attacks against targets in Western countries, and the United States in particular, and urged Islamist groups to work together.
“I call on all Muslims who can harm the countries of the crusader coalition not to hesitate. We must now focus on moving the war to the heart of the homes and cities of the crusader West and specifically America,” Ayman al-Zawahiri said in the audio recording.
Zawahiri, who is in hiding, also urged greater unity among militants.
“I call on all mujahedeen (Islamist fighters) in districts of Iraq and Syria to collaborate and help each other,” said Zawahiri.
He repeated his position that the Islamic State group’s claim to be a caliphate was illegitimate, but said al-Qaeda would join IS in fighting Western and secular forces in Iraq and Syria. He said the decision on the caliphate had been taken “in secret and without consultation.”
He singled out five areas of cooperation: ending inter-jihadist clashes, a halt to campaigns calling for rivals to be eliminated, the creation of an independent religious tribunal to resolve differences, a general amnesty and collaboration in treating the wounded, sheltering refugees and stocking food supplies.
Such cooperation had become even more urgent, he said, as “the enemy has intensified its crusade against Islam.”
Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, allied with other Islamist rebel groups, has been locked in deadly clashes with IS for control of territory in the north and around Damascus.
Zawahiri urged Muslim men in the West to follow the example of the Tsarnaev and Kouachi brothers. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were behind the bombing at the Boston marathon in April 2013, while Sharif and Said Kouachi carried out the terror attack at the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in January.
It was not clear when Zawahiri made the recording, but according to Reuters, a reference to Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar as still being alive dates it as at least two months old. The Afghani government announced that Omar was dead in late July.
The former physician, who is of Egyptian nationality, called on fighting factions in Syria and Iraq to unite against the Western-led coalition bombing Islamic State targets. Zawahiri conceded it would be difficult to find common ground between the groups, and called for the formation of an independent sharia court to settle disputes.