Islamic militants are hijacking Syrian rebel movement

TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- The human rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Syrians fighting to overthrow dictator Bashar Assad are confronting a new kind of tyranny -- this time, from Islamic militants who have pushed out moderates among the rebel fights.

The group calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and it has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda. Among their prisoners: Men who aren't government soldiers, but other rebels who don't share the group's extremist views.

At first many Syrians welcomed the militant group, which quickly scored key victories on the battlefield against the Syrian regime. But now they are the chafing under the strict Islamic law it enforces.

Activist Abu Layla had to leave eastern Syria after criticizing the group's tactics. He said he received an unambiguous threat.

"The letter said, 'We will finish you off easily, either with a bullet or a car bomb,'" he said, speaking through a translator. 

Radical cleric Omar Bakri says he wants the war to spread beyond Syria's borders. CBS News

Jihadists have streamed into Syria from across the Arab world, Europe and even America. According to one intelligence estimate, at least 60 Americans have gone to fight in Syria.

Radical cleric Omar Bakri teaches English-speaking Muslims over the Internet from his home in Lebanon.

"My students are from Australia, from America, from Britain," he said.

Bakri said some of his students have shown interest in fighting in Syria. "Oh yes, some of them even, they left and went to Syria."

Bakri boasted to CBS News that he provides would-be jihadists with introductions to groups like ISIS. He also said he shares the group's desire to see jihad spread beyond Syria's borders.

He would like to see the war in Syria come to Lebanon.

"I'm in favor of that. Because after all, the war in Syria is really for the sake of establishing Islam in the region. And I believe the birth of the Islamic state is really started in Syria," he said.

Asked if that means there will be an increase in terrorism, Bakri replied, "You want to call it terrorism, it's up to you."

Asked if there would be more suicide bombings, he answered, "Oh yes, definitely."

That is a chilling prediction in a region that has already seen so much bloodshed.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News