Baghdad: An audio tape has been posted on the Internet purporting to come from Al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub Al Masri, who the Iraqi Interior Ministry said was killed in internecine fighting with fellow militants this week.
The statement was seen as a warning to Sunnis not to take part in the political process that could legitimise the Shiite-led government and its US backers.
Iraqi Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi has resisted calls by fellow leaders of the main Sunni alliance to pull out of the government.
The statement, posted on a militant Web site, did not directly address reports from Iraqi officials that the Al Qaida leader was killed on Tuesday by rivals north of Baghdad.
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 had said that Al 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 Al Masri died in clashes with Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders. Al Masri's self-styled Islamic State in Iraq denied his death on the same day. The US 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 Al 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.
Al Masri said the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party in parliament, headed by Vice President 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.