CNN Security Clearance

Meet the 'foreign fighters' in the Syrian rebel ranks

The presence of foreigners among the ranks of Syria's rebels has been seized on by nearly all sides to suit their purposes.

The Syrian government says they are proof the rebels are extremists and terrorists. The rebels sometimes point to them as a sign that they haven't had the outside help NATO gave their Libyan counterparts and have instead had to rely on foreign militants with genuine experience of battle, and sometimes let in people who they would not normally have asked to fight alongside.

Among the rebel ranks are, according to who you listen to, al Qaeda, foreign jihadis, Salafis seeking a radical Islamist state, and then plain old freedom fighters - Muslims seeking to support their Arab brothers in this brutal battle.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and James Foley talk to one rebel who staunchly rejects claims that foreign fighters are radicals or have links to al Qaeda.

"I'm only a student. I left my money, my student, my family. We are not al Qaeda. We are not coming to break this country, we're coming to help," said Libyan Feras.

Read Nick and James reporting here.