04/10/2013 08:48 EDT | Updated 04/10/2013 08:50 EDT

Syria Militants And Al-Qaeda Announce Alliance

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A Palestinian Salafist holds an Al-Qaeda-affiliated flag during a protest against an amateur film mocking Islam in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on September 14, 2012. Anti-US protests by crowds whipped into fury by a film that mocks Islam erupted across the Muslim world, as violence exploded in Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Yemen leaving five dead and dozens injured. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/GettyImages)

BEIRUT -- The leader of a militant group fighting on the side of Syria's rebels has for the first time pledged allegiance to al-Qaida and the terror network's No. 1, Ayman al-Zawahri.

In an audio message Wednesday, Abu Mohammad al-Golani also confirms ties with al-Qaida's Iraq branch but says that he wasn't consulted ahead of an announcement on the two groups' merger.

Al-Qaida's branch in Iraq on Tuesday announced it joined forces with the Syrian group, and that the new union will be called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

But al-Golani says the announcement was premature and that his Jabhat al-Nusra will continue to use its own name.

His message was first reported by the SITE monitoring service for militant groups.

It's unclear if al-Golani is denying the merger.

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