Foreign fighters radicalized by extremists join Syrian rebels

There is no end to the fighting in Syria's civil war.

On Tuesday the military bombed the city of Aleppo for a tenth straight day.

Neighborhoods held by rebels are being turned into rubble and activists say hundreds have died.

After two and a half years the war in Syria is at a stalemate. One reason is that foreign fighters, many of them Islamic militants, keep pouring into Syria from other countries to join the rebel cause.

A wire border fence is where many Syrian refugees cross into the safety of neighboring Turkey. And going the other way is just as easy for foreign fighters with links to al Qaeda. 

Young Muslim men from Libya, Iraq, and Europe have flooded in to Syria to help the rebels in their struggle against the country's regime. 

Many foreign fighters have been radicalized by extremist groups that have joined the rebel side.

 

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Ayse Dilken's son Omer
CBS
 Ayse Dilken's son Omer was 18 years old when he left his home in Turkey. He ran away to Syria in August after telling friends he wanted to flight.

Dilken told CBS that he can't even shop by himself in the bazaar. She added that he doesn't know what war is, but they told him he would become a martyr.

She believes her son is fighting with an al Qaeda-linked militant group. In certain propaganda videos they depict themselves as saviors of the Syrian people.  

One such group includes Al Nusrah which is labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. A propaganda video shows them handing out food to the hungry.

They're doing their best to win hearts and minds - and seem to be succeeding. In a makeshift refugee camp in Turkey, CBS News spoke to many people who told us they're grateful to Al Nusrah for fighting against Syrian government forces that bombed their villages.

One man in the camp told CBS it is the U.N. Security Council who is the real terrorist because it hasn't helped them. 

When militants took control of the town of Turkish town of Raqqa in August, they started practicing strict Islamic law - and publicly executed those with links to the government.

  

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A man is publicly executed in front of a crowd in Raqqa, Syria.
CBS
 Mohammed, a witness to what happened in Raqqa, told CBS that the extremists demanded that all women wear black and cover everything except their eyes. That angered some, but Mohammed told CBS many others admire them. "They win lots of battles against the regime. …that is why so many young fighters are joining them." Mohammed said

The groups with links to Al Qaeda are not invited to the peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels scheduled for next month.

However, their increasing strength is undermining this communication. 

It makes the moderate rebels, who are back by the U.S. look irrelevant and unqualified to speak for the Syrian opposition. This in turn means the peace talks are less likely to achieve anything. 

  • Holly Williams

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