An Al-Qaeda front group fighting in Iraq and Syria has called for jihadist groups to join forces under its banner, according to an audio message posted Thursday on the Internet.
In remarks purportedly made by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) spokesman said militant groups should close ranks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We call for all jihadist leaders and soldiers and people to accelerate in joining the project of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," Adnani said.
The authenticity of the audio message and the identity of the speaker could not be independently verified.
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Adnani cautioned against judging ISIL on the basis of "what the media portrays or through what our enemies say, such as false charges and lies, but by what you see and feel by yourselves."
His remarks come weeks after Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered ISIL to shut down in Syria and instead anointed Al-Nusra Front, another group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, to carry the network's banner in the Syrian conflict.
Zawahiri's November 8 demand confirmed a written order issued in June that has so far gone unheeded.
ISIL has instead defied Zawahiri's orders and continued to operate in Syria, where opposition activists have accused the group of escalating abuses against Syrian rebels and civilians.
When the Islamic State of Iraq originally announced it had become ISIL in April 2013, the group's chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said Al-Nusra Front was its branch in Syria.
But Al-Nusra commander Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani rejected that assertion and instead affirmed his allegiance to Zawahiri.