West Asia

Jordan says killed 27 in Syria drug smuggling shootout

Published : January 28, 2022 17:26 IST

The north of Jordan shares a lengthy land border with war-torn Syria, this picture shows the Nasib border crossing point. Photo: Ammar Safarjalani/Photoshot/picture alliance

Jordan's army says it killed over two dozen people in a mission to stop cross-border drug smuggling from Syria.

The Jordanian military on January 27 said its soldiers had killed 27 suspected smugglers trying to bring drugs into the country from neighboring Syria. Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria to boost trade last September, but fears have been raised over an increase in drug smuggling. Jordanian authorities say some 85 per cent of drugs seized in the country are earmarked for transit through the kingdom for other countries.

What happened on the border?

In a report on its website, the army said a military operation at dawn "thwarted attempts to infiltrate and smuggle large quantities of narcotics from Syrian territory into Jordanian territory." "A preliminary search was conducted in the area, and large quantities of narcotics were found."

The army said it was an "attempt to smuggle drugs from the region of Suweida" in southern Syria. "The smugglers were supported by other armed groups," said the army, which claimed its troops had also wounded an unknown number of traffickers. Others, it said, had fled back into Syrian territory. The military said that it was "continuing to apply the newly established rules of engagement and will strike with an iron fist and deal with force and firmness with any infiltration or smuggling attempts to protect the borders.'' The army is still searching the area, but the operation has been slow due to heavy snowfall, the statement said.

Source of illegal amphetamine

After more than a decade of conflict in Syria, an illegal drug industry has grown up. In recent years, the country has emerged as a hotbed for the production and trading of the illegal amphetamine captagon. The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime said in a 2014 report that the Middle East amphetamine market is booming. Seizures in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria account for more than 55 per cent of amphetamines seized worldwide. Syria and neighboring Lebanon have become gateways for smuggling the drug to other parts of the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf.

The Jordanian army announced earlier this month that an officer had been killed and three border guards wounded in another clash with smugglers on the long porous border. One of the wounded soldiers died of his injuries several days later.

Jordan has been hosting about 1.6 million Syrian refugees since 2011 when the outbreak of the conflict in Syria began. In recent years, it has tightened controls along the border with Syria, which stretches for more than 350 kilometers (220 miles). Several dozen fighters have been arrested and imprisoned for trying to enter Syria from Jordan to fight in the civil war there.

rc/msh (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)