Jordan arrests major drug smuggling suspect in wave of police operations

Arrest made in border area with Syria, the main source of narcotics flows in the Levant

Jordanian soldiers patrol near the eastern Jordan-Syria border, in Mafraq governorate.  AP Photo
Powered by automated translation

Jordanian security forces have arrested a major drug smuggler in the north of the kingdom, police said, in the latest development of a drug war on the country's border with Syria.

Authorities last year toughened their response to increased flows of narcotics from areas controlled by the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias in southern Syria. Jordan's border military units have been using more force against smugglers, and drug busts in the kingdom have also increased.

A police spokesman said that in the last few days, and after “intelligence efforts that lasted for months”, the suspected dealer was caught in northern Badia.

“A raid and investigation team managed to overrun and arrest a person who is considered to be one of the most dangerous drug smugglers in the northern Badia,” the spokesman said late on Monday.

He said 22,000 illicit pills and 75 pouches of hashish were seized in the raid.

A main component of the drug trade in the Levant is the amphetamine known as Captagon, which is cheap to produce and has among the highest returns in global narcotics trade.

Arab security officials say that Captagon in the Middle East is mainly manufactured in and around Damascus, before being transported to Jordan and then to the inner Arabian Peninsula.

Curbing the smuggling has been linked to a drive by Jordan in the last two years to improve ties with President Bashar Al Assad, after a surge in smuggling affected Jordan's ties with Saudi Arabia.

But Jordanian officials last year started openly blaming the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias for propagating the Captagon flows, while pursuing the rapprochement with Mr Assad.

For decades Jordan has been a consumer and conduit for hashish trade from Hezbollah-run areas in Lebanon's Bekaa valley.

The much more profitable Captagon became a major security problem for Jordan after the Syrian military was allowed in 2018 to recapture southern Syria from rebels supported by Jordan and other Arab countries.

The arrangement was in accordance with a deal between Russia — the main power supporting the Syrian regime — the US and Israel.

The border agreement was concluded after Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war allowed the regime and other pro-Iranian forces to recapture large areas of territory around Damascus and in the north of the country from Sunni groups opposed to the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus.

The Jordanian police spokesman said another drug dealer in northern Badia had been arrested in raids across the kingdom in recent days, as well as a suspect in the nearby district of Ramtha, where a border crossing between Jordan and Syria has been closed for years.

In another raid, a suspected dealer was caught as he was on a drug run in the governorate of Karak, south of Amman. He was carrying 1kg of crystal meth, or methamphetamine, another dangerous synthetic drug, the spokesman said.

In Amman five more drug dealers were arrested, he said, including one who had 1kg of cocaine. An Amman apartment where smugglers operated from was also raided.

Updated: April 11, 2023, 9:20 AM