The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is "not a branch of al-Qaeda," Ayman al-Zawahiri declared in a statement posted online yesterday. "Al-Qaeda is not responsible for ISIS' actions," and has "no connection" to it, al-Qaeda General Command said, according to the BBC. It added that al-Qaeda "was not pleased" with the group's creation. It also decried the increasingly intense infighting between Islamist factions in Syria and the "shedding of protected blood."
But this weekend ISIS fighters assassinated two rival rebel leaders in a series of bomb attacks, al-Jazeera reports, in an apparent shift in tactics. A double suicide bombing took out the leader of Liwa al-Tawhid on Saturday in Aleppo, while another attack in Hama killed the leader of the powerful Suqour al-Sham. Al-Qaeda was opposed to the group that became ISIS ever entering the Syrian conflict, with Zawahiri ordering it to return to Iraq in May, Aryn Baker at Time points out. But ISIS' leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, defied him, saying, "I have to choose between the rule of God and the rule of Zawahiri, and I choose the rule of God."