Abu Mohammad al-Golani, the chief of Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate the Al-Nusra Front, on Wednesday described the rival Islamic State (ISIS) group's self-proclaimed caliphate as "illegitimate", AFP reports.
The comments came in a the second part of al-Golani’s appearance on the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel. In the first part, which aired last week, he said that his group will not target the country's Alawite minority, despite their support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's government.
On Wednesday, he criticized ISIS at length and said he did not foresee a reconciliation between the two jihadist groups soon.
"They announced a caliphate, but the scholars rejected it as illegitimate. It is not based on Islamic law," al-Golani said, his face hidden from view by a black scarf.
The conflict between the two groups, al-Golani said, had seen ISIS kill more than 700 members of Al-Nusra in a single battle, as well as women and children.
"There is no indication of a solution between us and them at this time. We hope that they repent and return to the Sunni people," he said, adding that the rivalry had allowed the Syrian regime "to flourish."
He refused to call ISIS fighters "infidels" — a term usually referring to non-Muslims — but instead said they had strayed from the path of Islam.
"They did not commit to the orders we had… including not blowing up markets or killing people in mosques," said al-Golani.
He also criticized IS for not "being serious in fighting the regime" of Assad.
When asked by Al-Jazeera interviewer Ahmad Mansur about Al-Nusra's ties to Al-Qaeda and whether a split was possible, the jihadist leader refrained from answering directly.
"The issue is not about leaving Al-Qaeda. It is about who rises up against hegemony," said al-Golani, who said he had fought in Iraq against American forces.
As with the first installment of the interview aired last week, an "Al-Qaeda in the Levant" flag featured prominently on the table in front of al-Golani.
He said as many as 30 percent of Al-Nusra's members were foreigners, including "a small number of Americans."
His television interview comes on the heels of several major victories for Al-Nusra against regime forces in Syria's northwest Idlib province.
As in the first interview, al-Golani again rejected political solutions to Syria's four-year war, saying an end to the crisis could only come through "jihad", or holy war.
Last week, the jihadist chief had said his group would be willing to protect Syria's minorities if they renounced Assad and "came into the bosom of Islam."
He also said he had received orders from Al-Qaeda's central command not to attack the West.
"Our mission in Syria is the downfall of the regime, its symbols, and its allies, like Hezbollah," al-Golani said, referring to the Lebanese group fighting alongside the Assad regime.
AFP contributed to this report.