Jordanian army says arrested nine drug smugglers after shootout at Syria border

Narcotics gangs have increased efforts to fight their way into Jordan in recent days, the army says

Jordanian soldiers patrol the border with Syria. AP
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Jordanian soldiers arrested nine drug smugglers who tried to enter the kingdom from Syria on Monday morning, the army said.

The clash followed a rise in attempts by drug smugglers to “cross the border by force, through the targeting of border guards” over the past two days, a military official said.

Attempts to smuggle narcotics into northern Jordan from areas under the control of the Syrian military and allied militias supported by Iran tend to increase in the winter months, when the weather provides more cover.

The clash on Monday took place on Jordanian territory near the Syrian border and led to the seizure of five million Captagon pills, 13,000 pouches of hashish and weapons, a statement from the military said.

Among the weapons were four rocket-propelled grenade launchers, an M16 rifle and 10 anti-personnel mines. The statement added that a vehicle that was carrying explosives was also destroyed.

Several Jordanian soldiers who fought the smugglers were wounded.

Official media published photos of eight of the nine smugglers who were arrested. Most of them appeared to be in their teens or 20s. Their nationalities and names were not published.

Drugs, mainly sourced from Syria and Lebanon, flow from southern Syria to Jordan and beyond.

Captagon, a cheap to produce amphetamine, makes up the core of the drug smuggling business in the Levant.

Jordanian officials accuse pro-Iran militias and the Syrian military of overseeing the border narcotics trade. Both deny the allegations.

Last week, a day after drug smugglers from Syria killed a Jordanian soldier, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian at a meeting in Geneva that the kingdom would “take all necessary steps” to protect its national security.

Jordan's border with Syria has become the main conduit for the illegal trade since the Syrian military regained the area from rebels in 2018, after a deal between Russia, the US and Israel.

This was a major factor in Jordan's drive for a regional rapprochement with Syria's President Bashar Al Assad in the past two years.

The kingdom's efforts appear to have cooled in the second half of this year, as officials in Amman said that the drug flows remained a security threat.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 7:11 PM