Jordan army kills drug runners at Syria border amid soaring Captagon trade

One Jordanian soldier was killed and another injured in shootout near border with Syria.

A picture taken during a tour origanized by the Jordanian Army shows soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent trafficking, on February 17, 2022. Drug trafficking from Syria into Jordan is becoming "organised" with smugglers stepping up operations and using sophisticated equipment including drones, Jordan's army said, 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. (Photo by Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)
Jordanian soldiers patrol the border with Syria [Khalil Mazraawi/AFP]

Jordan’s army has said that it killed several drug smugglers near the Syrian border, cracking down on the trade of the highly addictive drug Captagon.

The amphetamine-like stimulant is mass-produced in Syria and channelled through Jordan into the Gulf states. It is thought to generate billions of dollars for Syria’s government and Iran-aligned militias that control swaths of southern Syria.

Dozens of drug runners crossed the Syrian border on Tuesday, shrouded in dense fog which reduced visibility, and fired at Jordanian border guards, Jordan’s army said in a statement. One Jordanian officer and “several” drug dealers were killed in the shootout, the army said. One soldier was injured.

Many dealers reportedly escaped back into Syria, which shares a 370km (230-mile) mostly desert border with Jordan.

“We act forcefully to protect our borders and prevent any attempt to undermine our national security,” the Jordanian army statement said.

The army did not specify where exactly the breach occurred, but Syrian sources told the Reuters news agency that the incident occurred northeast of the city of Mafraq in Jordan.

Transit to the Gulf

The border clash comes just a week after three other smugglers were shot dead while trying to traffic large quantities of Captagon pills into Jordan.

Smugglers often sneak the drugs into Jordan in transit to wealthy Gulf states, which fuel most of the business, according to Western narcotics control officials.

Jordanian officials echo Western claims that Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and other Iran-allied militias are behind the smuggling networks, accusations Hezbollah denies.

Jordan has also raised concerns about the drug trade with Syrian authorities and their ally Russia, they say.

But Syria’s government denies involvement and says it is doing its best to stop the drug trade.

The United States, meanwhile, has promised to send more military aid to boost Jordan’s border security, Jordanian officials said, adding to more than $1bn Washington has provided since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011.

However, impatient over what it says are broken promises to curb the trade, Jordan took matters into its own hands earlier this year, waging several strikes against Iran-linked drug factories in Syrian territory, local and Western intelligence sources said, according to Reuters.

Officials expect the smuggling runs into Jordan to spike as winter sets in, as poorer visibility makes it easier for traffickers to move undetected.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies