Al-Qaida's general command said on Monday it has no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in an apparent attempt to assert authority over the Islamist militant groups involved in Syria's civil war.
Small but powerful, ISIL has been caught up in battles with other Islamist insurgents often triggered by disputes over authority and territory, and has also clashed with secular rebels.
The internecine fighting - among the bloodiest in the three-year conflict - has undermined the uprising against President Bashar Assad and dismayed Western powers pushing for peace talks.
Rebel-on-rebel violence in Syria has killed at least 1,800 this year alone.
ISIL follows Al-Qaida's hardline ideology and, until now, the two groups were widely believed to be linked.
However, the organizations that have clashed with ISIL include Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaida's official Syria wing, which is led by Al-Qaida chief Ayman Zawahri.
In a message posted on jihadi websites on Monday, the al Qaeda General Command said ISIL "is not a branch of the A-Qaida group. "...(Al-Qaida) does not have an organizational relationship with it and is not the group responsible for their actions."
In April, ISIL head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi tried to merge ISIL with Jabhat al-Nusra, defying orders from Zawahri and causing a rift.
Charles Lister, visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center, said the al Qaeda statement "represents an attempt by Al-Qaida to definitively re-assert some level of authority over the jihad in Syria" following a month of fighting and ISIL disobedience.
"This represents a strong and forthright move by (Al-Qaida) and will undoubtedly serve to further consolidate Jabhat al-Nusra's role as Al-Qaida's official presence in Syria."
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