Nightly News   |  August 07, 2012

Al-Qaida fighters infiltrate Syria

At least 262 al-Qaida militants are now operating in the border area between Turkey and Syria and rebels say another group of fighters are living in a tented camp just outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

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>>> now to the big story overseas. it continues to be the chaos in syria . today secretary of state hillary clinton said it's important to make sure that syria 's basic institutions like the military remain intact if and when the assad regime falls. and she warned against foreigners and terrorist fighters exploiting the situation there. but as our chief foreign correspondent richard engel tells us, the enemy of the u.s. is now trying to team up with the rebels on the ground there in syria .

>> reporter: brian, just a few days ago we reported that al qaeda was trying to make inroads among the poorly armed and increasingly desperate rebels. well, things are moving even faster than we thought. we can now confirm from rebel sources that at least 262 al qaeda militants are now operating in the border area between turkey and syria mostly concentrated around the border crossing . many are from chechnya, part of a group calling itself the chechen base. there are also fighters, however, from al qaeda from iraq, algeria, pakistan, and saudi arabia . in addition to the ones in the border area, we've also been told there is another group of al qaeda fighters living in a tented camp just outside of aleppo waiting to help the fighters from the rebels in aleppo who are by now almost completely out of ammunition. this is a very dangerous development and rebel leaders we have spoken to are worried that al qaeda is trying to piggy back off the syrian war and could bring a foreign agenda. in fact, some rebel leaders said they would even welcome american help to eliminate al qaeda from syria . other rebel leaders, however, say that al qaeda fighters are welcome as long as they focus on fighting bashar al assad and the syrian president today was seen for the first time in two weeks on syrian state television trying to show that he is still in charge of syria . brian?

>> richard engel along the syria /turkey border for us tonight. richard,