Leading Jordanian Al Qaeda Islamist leaders have denounced the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) declaration of a caliphate, calling on its followers not to recognise the supposed Islamic state in the latest row between the rival jihadist movements.
In a series of statements on Tuesday, leaders of the hard-line Al Qaeda affiliated Jordanian Salafist movement criticised the Islamic State’s announcement this week of the formation of an Islamic state, or caliphate, describing the move as “premature” and “illegitimate”.
In a rare public statement, recently released Al Qaeda spiritual leader and ISIL critic Abu Mohammed Al Maqdissi criticised the move, refusing to “waste time addressing” the formation of a greater Islamic state whose preconditions he claimed had “not been met”.
“In the past, our brothers in the Caucuses announced their blessed Islamic emirate, and we failed to build on it… the Taliban announced their Islamic emirate and their emir and soldiers have not retired… should these emirates be forgotten because a new ‘caliphate’ has been announced?” Maqdissi challenged in a press statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Jordan Times.
“And what of the other Muslim groups and militias sacrificing their blood and bodies in Iraq and Syria, what is their fate now that they are fighting outside the ‘caliphate?’ These are important questions that demand answers.”
The cleric, who has reportedly received death threats from supporters of rival ISIL since his release from a Jordanian jail earlier this month, dismissed the movement’s announcement of an Islamic caliphate on Sunday as “premature”.
“We all wish for the return of the caliphate, to break down borders and lift the banner of unification… but the state must be applied in reality on the ground before an announcement can be made.”
Mohammad Shalabi, or Abu Sayyaf, leader of the Jordanian Jihadi Salafist movement, described the proposed state as “illegitimate”, saying such an entity requires a “consensus” among Muslim leaders and clerics before the announcement can be made.
“The Islamic State’s announcement of a caliphate and the appointment of its leader [Abu Bakr] Al Baghdadi as a caliph all require the opinion and approval of the Muslim world,” Abu Sayyaf said.
“Until the greater Ummah takes a position, with thorough study, this caliphate is illegitimate and should not be recognised.”
The statements come as the latest war of words between the ISIL and Al Qaeda, which has been locked in a bitter war with its former Iraq affiliate for control over the global jihadist movement.
The rift has played out in Jordan in recent weeks, with the Islamic State holding its first public rallies in the southern city of Maan in open defiance of the wishes of Al Qaeda leaders, and reportedly clashing with Jordanian Salafists at a rally on Friday.
Jordanian Islamic State supporters said they remained “unaffected” by the statements, saying they are set to expand their nascent state beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria —including even Jordan — without the input of Al Qaeda.
“This is what we expected from corrupt clerics who have shown through their actions that their words hold no meaning and they only represent their personal agendas,” said Khaled Al Maani, co-founder of Islamic State Jordan, the jihadist movement’s recruitment arm in the country.
“Today marks the return of the Islamic caliphate, and we will only expand from Persia to Andalusia. Al Qaeda no longer has any use.”
Late Sunday, ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed Al Adnani declared the formation of an Islamic caliphate, appointing the group’s leader Baghdadi as caliph.
The move came as tribe-backed ISIL forces held on to a series of military gains across northern and western Iraq, retaining control over Mosul and Tikrit, the foundations of the supposed Islamic state.
In the surprise move, the ISIL removed “Iraq and the Levant from its name — leaving it as “Islamic State” as part of a wider strategy to transform the group from a militant resistance force to a global Islamic movement.
Some 1,200 Jordanians are reportedly serving under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria while jihadist leaders claim that up to 70 per cent of the country’s 10,000 salafist supporters have aligned themselves with the ISIL.
By Taylor Luck