Jordan says drug trafficking from Syria is ‘organized’

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Drug trafficking from Syria into Jordan is becoming “organized” with smugglers stepping up operations and using sophisticated equipment including drones, Jordan’s army said Thursday, warning of a shoot-to-kill policy.

Since the beginning of this year, Jordan’s army has killed 30 smugglers and foiled attempts to smuggle into the kingdom from Syria 16 million Captagon pills, more than they seized in the whole of 2021, the military said.

“The most dangerous thing we have noticed recently is the presence of armed groups alongside the traffickers,” Colonel Zaid al-Dabbas told reporters during a tour of the border.

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These groups, he said, “have new tactics, like those of organized crime” and use “sophisticated vehicles... as well as drones.”

Another senior officer, Colonel Mustafa al-Hiyari, warned that “anyone who tries to... smuggle drugs to Jordan will die,” pointing his hand toward the border area.

On January 27, the army said it killed 27 traffickers in a clash as they tried to enter Jordan from Syria.

It was the deadliest confrontation yet in the army’s fight against smugglers. Three other alleged traffickers have been killed in separate operations this year.

Some 160 groups of traffickers are operating in southern Syrian, near the border with Jordan, according to al-Dabbas.

Al-Hiyari told reporters that large amounts of illegal drugs have been seized since the beginning of the year.

This included 17,348 packs of hashish and more than 16 million Captagon pills - compared to 15.5 million pills for all of 2021 and 1.4 million pills in 2020.

Captagon is an amphetamine-type stimulant manufactured mostly in Lebanon, although probably also in Iraq and Syria.

“Jordan is waging an undeclared war along the border against drug traffickers and those who back them up,” al-Hiyari said.

Jordan, the officers said, is working with Syrian authorities to stamp out trafficking along the border.

“We got a very positive response from the Syrian government... but on the ground that does not last for long,” al-Hiyari said.

“We have confirmed information that some Syrian checkpoints cooperated with some smugglers in some cases... some checkpoints affiliated with the Syrian army helped smugglers and provided protection,” he added.

“But we cannot be certain that this was done on instructions from the Syrian army - perhaps these are cases of corruption in these checkpoints,” al-Hiyari said.

He also said that it was not clear if the drugs were produced and came from Syria or “from somewhere else.”

According to an EU-funded report by the Center for Operational Analysis and Research, “Captagon exports from Syria reached a market value of at least $3.46 billion” in 2020.

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