Apr 24, 5:04 AM EDT

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CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Qaida's leader has urged his followers and all militants in Syria to unite ranks and prepare for protracted jihad, or holy war.

Ayman al-Zawahri tells the jihadis to remain steadfast and change tactics to a guerrilla war. His remarks came in an audio message released on Monday by al-Qaida's media arm As-Sahab.

Al-Zawahri says an "international satanic alliance" will never accept Islam's rule in Syria. He says the war isn't an exclusively nationalist Syrian cause but a campaign by the entire Muslim nation that seeks to establish divine rule.

Al-Qaida's Syria branch - formerly the Nusra Front but now known as the Fatah al-Sham Front - has come under increasing attack from the U.S.-led coalition in recent months and some of its most senior leaders have been killed in airstrikes.

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