Al Qaeda terror leader Ayman al-Zawahri says that Muslims in Egypt should not fight the nation’s Christians, but rather focus on targeting the country’s current military-backed leadership.

Zawahiri made the comments in an audio message posted on jihadi websites over the weekend,the Associated Press reported, which noted that it was “a rare call … in defense of Christians.”

Since the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated former President Mohammed Morsi was deposed last summer, Egypt’s Christians have faced violence including killings and widespread church burnings.

The Coptic church leadership voiced support for the coup against Morsi, and many Christians joined the millions who demonstrated against him.

But Zawahiri now says that it is not in Muslims’ interest to deal with the Christians, because “we have to be busy confronting the Americanized coup of [Gen. Abdel-Fattah] el-Sisi and establish an Islamic government instead.”

Sisi is the Egyptian defense minister and commander in chief of Egypt’s armed forces and played a key role in ousting Morsi from the presidency after massive demonstrations demanding his removal.

“We must not seek war with the Christians and thus give the West an excuse to blame Muslims, as has happened before,” Zawahri said according to quotes provided by the AP.

Zawahiri accused Sisi of operating at the behest of the United States.

“He is a mercenary, an Americanized puppet, an impostor, treacherous and sinful with a history of bootlicking,” he said.

In the tape, Zawahiri also criticized Morsi for cooperating with secular Egyptians and the U.S. and for acknowledging agreements with them and Israel when he was president.

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