Jordan's army says 27 drug smugglers killed on border

The incident occurred on the frontier with Syria

Twenty-seven drug smugglers have been killed by the Jordanian military, a statement by authorities said on Thursday.

The suspects, who were reportedly armed, had tried to cross from Syria into the kingdom under the cover of heavy snow and poor visibility.

The authorities did not give details on where or how the smugglers were killed.

The announcement was made 11 days after smugglers operating from Syrian regime areas killed two Jordanian soldiers at the border.

Their deaths stoked public concern about the activities of smugglers on the borders who are feeding a Captagon trade worth up to $4 billion a year.

Official state television quoted an official from the military as saying that a large quantity of drugs was found after it "engaged" with smugglers who were supported by armed groups.

The military did not release photos of their bodies.

The smuggling of drugs, particularly Captagon, from Syrian regime areas has accelerated in the past year.

Jordan is a consumer as well as a main transit centre for Captagon into inner Arabia.

“The search operations are still under way to make sure the area is free of persons or drug substances,” the official said.

Snow fell overnight in Amman and on parts of semi-mountainous desert regions at the border with Syria.

Relatives of the two soldiers who were killed on January 16 said their unit was ambushed in a desolate area on the border with Syrian regime territory, near the city of Mafraq in northern Jordan.

The army responded to the killings by saying it has toughened its rules of engagement with smugglers to allow troops to pursue them. But it did not say whether this could involve crossing into Syrian territory.

Curbing drug flows from regime areas in Syria has been the rationale behind Jordanian policy in the past two years to accommodate the Assad regime, but there have been few signs the volumes have lessened.

Arab security officials say the drug rings are concentrated in southern Syria and are supported by pro-Iranian militias, namely the Shiite group Hezbollah, and the Fourth Division, a praetorian guard led by President Bashar Al Assad's brother Maher.

At the end of last year Jordan eased restrictions at Nasib, the main land crossing with Syria.

The foreign ministers of the two countries met in September for the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian revolt against five decades of Assad family rule in March 2011.

After the two soldiers were killed this month, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi said the kingdom has become a target of drug rings based in Syria.

“Jordan has become targeted on its northern border by drug merchants,” Mr Safadi said.

Referring to the rapprochement with the Assad regime, he said Jordan’s foreign policy was “aimed at preserving our national interests”.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 6:51 AM