DUBAI, (Reuters) – An audio tape has been posted on the Internet purporting to come from Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who the Iraqi Interior Ministry said was killed in internecine fighting with fellow militants this week.
The tape appeared to have been posted on a Web site used by Islamists on Friday. Its authenticity could not be verified, nor when it was recorded.
On Thursday the Interior Ministry said Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, had been killed in fighting among insurgents north of Baghdad.
Some leading Arabic television channels have also reported Masri died in clashes with Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders. Masri’s self-styled Islamic State in Iraq denied his death on the same day. The U.S. military said it could not confirm his death. “What you are hearing from satellite channels about internal fights between us and Jihadist groups, or with our blessed tribes, is just lies and fabrications,” the purported voice of Masri, who identified himself as minister of war in the Islamic State, said in the audio tape.
“(These reports) are aimed at the division of our jihadist line,” he said in the 21-minute tape.
Masri said the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party in parliament, headed by Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, and other Sunni groups were campaigning against his group but their differences ought not to lead to violence. “We would not like you to shed our blood, and we do not like to shed one drop of your blood … just leave us with the enemy, we do not want anything from you,” he said.
Al Qaeda advocates the strict Salafist sect of Sunni Islam, which many other Sunnis reject.
Iraqi Sunnis have accused al Qaeda of killing tribal figures and Muslim clerics who have spoken out against the group.