CAIRO: The head of Egypt's Al-Azhar, one of Islam's highest seats of learning, said on Monday that jihadists aligned with the Islamic State (IS) were "criminals" serving a "Zionist" plot to "destroy the Arab world."
"These criminals have been able to transmit to the world a tarnished and alarming image of Muslims," Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb said.
"These fundamentalist terrorist groups, whatever their names, and their backers are colonial creations that serve Zionism in its plot to destroy the Arab world."
Al-Azhar is Egypt's top religious authority and runs a university long seen as the most prestigious centre of Muslim learning.
It espouses a different school of theology within Sunnism than the radical Salafi views of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups, and has backed a government crackdown on opposition.
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