AMMAN: The Jordanian army said its troops on the northeastern border with Syria killed 27 drug smugglers after they tried to illegally enter the country at dawn on Thursday.
The clash with smugglers, the deadliest ever, came after the Jordanian Armed Forces announced a change in the rules of engagement in a bid to curb increasing illicit drug smuggling from Syria.
A security source told Arab News that orders were given to troops to chase and kill smugglers inside Syrian territory rather than wait until they get closer to the borders.
The security source said that the smugglers killed in Thursday’s operation tried to take advantage of the harsh weather conditions but “were received by vigilant border guards.”
The JAF said in a statement on Thursday that the smugglers were aided by an armed group, adding that a preliminary search of the area was conducted and large quantities of narcotics were found.
“The smugglers were supported by other armed groups,” the JAF said, adding that troops also wounded an unknown number of traffickers while others retreated back into Syrian territory.
Jordan has reported a surge in drug smuggling attempts from Syria, with authorities seizing large quantities of narcotics either found hidden in trucks on borders crossings or abandoned by smugglers following clashes with troops.
On Jan. 17, the Jordanian army announced that an officer had been killed and three border guards wounded in a clash with drug smugglers on the border with Syria, which stretches more than 360 kilometers.
The Jordanian army recently said that it had thwarted a total of 361 infiltration and smuggling attempts from Syria into the kingdom in 2021, seizing about 15.5 million pills.
In 2020, the army said it had thwarted more than 130 infiltration and smuggling attempts from Syria that resulted in the seizure of about 132 million Captagon pills and more than 15,000 sheets of hashish.
And in October last year, the Jordanian army said it had shot down a drone carrying a large quantity of drugs as it flew over the border.
Experts have warned that Syria could turn into a narco-state due to the growth of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the country and the group’s expansion of its drug trafficking operations as alternative financing following US sanctions.
UN drug experts say that Syria, shattered by a decade-long civil war, has become the region’s main production site for drugs destined for Jordan, Iraq, the Gulf and Europe.
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.