AL-WASHASH – The Jordanian military says a crackdown on drug smugglers along the Syrian border is delivering results.
During a media tour along the Syrian border on Thursday, Col. Mustafa al-Hiyari said the military was forced into action in response to increased smuggling activity and violence. In January, an army officer was killed in a shootout with smugglers.
“Changing the rules of engagement came as a result of changing the nature of the threat. Therefore, the results were decisive,” he said.
The military says it has killed some 30 smugglers, including 27 people in a single day. Al-Hiyari, director of the army's information directorate, also said large quantities of hashish and 16 million narcotics pills have been seized.
He said Syrian authorities have pledged cooperation, but Jordan has seen only limited results. He said in some cases, Syrian police have even cooperated with smugglers along the porous border.
"It did not bear fruit for long periods, which forced us to change the rules of engagement,” he said of the Syrian pledges to help.
As he spoke, soldiers stood by and army vehicles could be seen patrolling the border. Al-Hiyari said the mission is also aimed at stopping the shipment of drugs out of Jordan and across the region.
An illegal drug industry has flourished in Syria after 10 years of civil war. In recent years, the Arab Mediterranean country has emerged as a hotspot for making and selling captagon, an illegal amphetamine. Both Syria and neighboring Lebanon have become gateways for the drug to the Middle East, particularly the Gulf.
In September, Syrian and Jordanian officials discussed border security after Syrian government forces captured rebel-held areas along the Jordanian frontier. A month later, Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke with Syrian President Bashar Assad for the first time in a decade after the two countries reopened a key border crossing.
Jordan shares a long porous border with its northern neighbor and is home to more than 650,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war.
On Monday, Abdullah visited the area, saluting army personnel and stressing the need to deal firmly with infiltration and smuggling, the Royal Court said.
According to the Jordanian army, the military last year thwarted about 361 infiltration or smuggling attempts and 48 smuggling operations.