The Syrian border area near Turkey contains a deadly mix of terrorist groups that, disturbingly, are becoming very popular among young people, says Michael Yon, a former Army special forces officer.
"Al-Qaida are running around [and] wear suicide belts on the outside of their clothes . . . People are completely terrorized," Yon told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"These guys are mixed together . . . But I've heard quite a few of the young people express fondness for al-Qaida . . . A young 20-year old, two nights ago, he told [me] flat-out. He goes, I love al-Qaida. And I was shocked. His English was pretty good.
"When I talk with the young people who do have that fondness, they come across not like lunatics, but more like people who would follow Che Guevara fashionably. It's just like a fashion statement almost."
Yon says al-Qaida is "clearly the worst" of the terrorist groups, with al-Nusra in second place.
"A lot of people would take [al-Nusra] instead of al-Qaida, but they're still very bad, and al-Nusra is an enemy of the United States. It's definitely a terrorist organization," he said.
"You've got a lot of Muslims and Christians who are getting along quite well together, and they have for hundreds of years . . . [but] al-Qaida would kill everybody. That means Sunni, Shia, Christians, they're equal-opportunity murderers."
He said a quick-thinking friend narrowly escaped death when he started snapping photos of al-Qaida operatives burning a church at night.
"One of the al-Qaida guys actually came up to him and he said, 'What are you doing?' And he said, "I'm going to publish these photos and blame it on FSA,' which is the Free Syrian Army, because that's basically an enemy of al-Qaida," Yon said.
In addition to the escalating terrorism, a new report by a U.N. fact-finding team has found "massive evidence" that the Syrian government is responsible for war crimes in the ongoing civil war.
President Bashar al-Assad was not named in the report, but evidence collected points to high-level government participation.
Yon said it is unclear whether the area can find peace.
"There's a lot of propaganda going on. So, you'll hear people saying that the Assad regime is now winning or whatever," he said.
"But the bottom line, if people don't quit fighting, it'll just continue to go because we've seen until somebody actually quits or is just simply destroyed, the war's not over."
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