Nightly News   |  September 11, 2013

Foreign fighters head to Syria to join al Qaeda

NBC’s Richard Engel speaks to Abu Abdul Rahman, a Tunisian man who dropped out of college to fight with al Qaeda in Syria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> that is where the diplomatic front stands. the civil war continues in syria and the question has been raised about who the rebels are and who the u.s. could be helping with a strike. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel with us tonight with an exclusive look at how al qaeda is increasingly in this fight. richard, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. the u.s. has decided it is not going to intervene in syria , at least for now. but al qaeda is. every day we see its fighters in this city in the streets, at the airports, heading into syria . southern turkey, a long and ancient trade route , it's now a smugglers' town where al qaeda fighters crossed into syria by the thousands.

>> translator: if muslims are pressed and cannot defend themselves we have to support them.

>> reporter: abu abdul rhaman dropped out of college to fight in syria . he agreed to be interviewed if he could hide his face. the united states is considering launching military strikes against syria . would that help you?

>> translator: we have a prayer. oh, a llah, please annihilate enemies. bashar is an enemy. america is an en my. let them fight. he showed us his safehouse and his war supplies. the bullet carrier. the uniform. you have no military experience. this is the first time you will wear a uniform. he says this is the happiest moment of his life. you're smiling. i can see through the mask.

>> translator: praise allah, i am happy.

>> reporter: why are you so happy?

>> translator: because this was a dream for me to wage jihad, to bleed for al lah.

>> reporter: the smuggler said he's moved 300 foreign fighters from turkey to syria in the last four months. in this area now, there are many other smugglers doing exactly the same thing. parts of northern syria already look like an al qaeda state. with public executions, a man being whipped for marrying a woman too soon after her divorce. islamic justice that this man is on his uh way to enforce. he calls his mother to say good-bye. she tries to talk him out of going. he re fuses and makes his way into syria . an al qaeda fighter joining a rebellion with ambitions beyond toppling assad. many people in the turkish residence aren't happy at all that these ex treemists are transiting through the city worrying that it one day could be a danger for them. brian?

>> richard engel with us tonight. thanks.