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Al-Qaida chief urges jihadis in Syria to end rift, rally around goal of Islamic state

FILE - In this file image taken from Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a rebel fighter fires a gun in a valley in an unidentified location in Latakia province, Syria. Jihadi-led rebel fighters in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and abducted more than 200 during an offensive against pro-regime villages, committing a war crime, an international human rights group said Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP Video, File)

FILE - In this file image taken from Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a rebel fighter fires a gun in a valley in an unidentified location in Latakia province, Syria. Jihadi-led rebel fighters in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and abducted more than 200 during an offensive against pro-regime villages, committing a war crime, an international human rights group said Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP Video, File)  (The Associated Press)

The leader of al-Qaida has urged jihadis in Syria to unite, an appeal likely aimed at rival affiliates of his terror network fighting there to oust President Bashar Assad.

Ayman al-Zawahri says fighters must "rise above organizational loyalties and party partisanship" and unite behind the goal of setting up an Islamic state.

However, he suggests he will not impose unity, saying in an audio message Friday that "what you agree upon will also be our choice."

Two al-Qaida-linked groups have emerged in Syria's civil war — Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The first is commanded by a Syrian, the second by an Iraqi, but both are loyal to al-Zawahri.

Al-Zawahri also urged Syrian regime opponents not cut deals with Westerns and secular groups.