BAGHDAD (AP) - An audio message purporting to be from the leader of al-Qaida's Iraq arm has him rejecting an order by top al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri to scrap a merger with the terror network's Syria affiliate.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi heads al-Qaida's Iraq arm, known as the Islamic State of Iraq. In a message posted online Saturday, a speaker identified as him insists that a merger he previously announced with Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group to create a cross-border movement known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant will continue.
Al-Nusra is Syria's most powerful rebel extremist group, and its head has rejected the takeover attempt. Al-Zawahri this week tried to end the squabbling and ordered the two groups to stay separate.
Al-Baghdadi is now defying that command.
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