Jordan military says it will deal differently with drug smugglers from Syria

Captagon smugglers operating from Syria killed Jordanian border guard officer this week

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The Jordanian military has escalated its measures against smugglers operating from Syria after they killed an officer this week in worsening drug violence on Jordan’s northern border.

Chief of Staff Maj Gen Youssef Huneiti “directed to change rules of engagement of the armed forces and pursue all the elements that mess with national security” after a visit to the border with Syria on Sunday, state television reported.

It is rare for the Jordanian military to comment on its battle rules.

The Captagon crisis in the Middle East

The Captagon crisis in the Middle East

The statement reflects growing concern in the kingdom about the flow of drugs from Syria, mainly Captagon pills, which feed domestic demand and thriving markets in the Gulf.

The officer killed, Capt Mohammad Khudeirat, was the latest of several Jordanian soldiers killed or wounded by smugglers from Syria in the past two years.

Khudeirat was a member of a prominent clan in north Jordan and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah went this week to his hometown of Deir Al Sineh on the outskirts of the city of Irbid to pay condolences to his family.

Arab security officials say Captagon flows mainly from Syrian regime areas in Deraa and other areas in the south to the Gulf through Jordan, and that the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias are overlords of its manufacturing and smuggling.

Convincing the Syrian regime to restrict the flow of Captagon was a motive behind Jordanian overtures to President Bashar Al Assad last year, but there have been few indicators to suggest the flow has decreased.

The military said it seized five million Captagon pills in the area where the smugglers killed Khudeirat on Sunday.

The smugglers fled back to Syria.

War on Drugs: The Captagon Crisis

War on Drugs: The Captagon Crisis

It is not clear whether under the new rules of engagement if a similar incident occurred that they would be pursued across the border.

Maj Gen Huneiti said the border guard is being given “utmost priority” and that “elite troops” from the Special Forces and Rapid Response units of the military are helping it to solve “all logistical obstacles”.

The military said in a separate statement that another soldier, Private Mohammad Mashaqba, was killed on Monday "while performing his duties on one of the border frontiers," without giving details.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 5:50 PM