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Al Qaeda-ISIL rift as cleric taken to ‘court’

By Taylor Luck - Jul 17,2014 - Last updated at Jul 17,2014

AMMAN — Five Jordanian Islamists have filed with an internal court a case against a leading Al Qaeda cleric for comments critical of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the latest chapter of rising tensions between supporters of the rival jihadist groups.

According to Islamist sources, the case was filed on Sunday against Issam Al Barqawi, better known as Abu Mohammed Al Maqdissi, at an internal Sharia court for recent statements critical of ISIL and accusing its leadership of “distorting” Islam.

In the case, the five men, self-proclaimed Islamic State supporters accused Maqdissi, a leading Al Qaeda cleric, of “inciting Muslims across the world not to pledge allegiance” to the “caliphate” and declaring them as “unbelievers” with statements deemed critical of ISIL. 

Should the Salafist Sharia judge find basis for the claims, the Salafist movement will take formal action against Maqdissi, sources say.

The dispute marked the latest in the rising tensions between supporters of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, who have engaged in a war of words over the ISIL’s recent announcement of an Islamic caliphate, or state, on territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.

On Saturday, Maqdissi issued a fatwa declaring the ISIL caliphate as “null and void”, criticising the group’s leadership for “distorting” jihad and Islam through their alleged battlefield abuses and urging its followers to abandon the movement. 

Mahmoud Othman, or Abu Qatada, another leading voice among Al Qaeda-aligned Islamists, followed suit and issued a similar critical statement “annulling” the caliphate, accusing ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi of “heresy”.

Meanwhile, the growing rift between the jihadist groups was blamed for acts of violence targeting clerics.

Al Qaeda has been locked in a bitter struggle with its former offshoot, ISIL, over control of the global jihadist movement.

Jihadist sources say Al Qaeda has lost ground since the Islamic State’s announcement of an Islamic caliphate, with hundreds of pro-Al Qaeda fighters allegedly defecting to their rivals over the last two weeks.

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