AL-WASHASH – The Jordanian military says the crackdown on drug smugglers along the Syrian border is paying off.
During a media tour along the Syrian border on Thursday, Colonel Mustafa al-Hiyari said the army had been forced to act in response to increased smuggling activities and violence. In January, an army officer was killed in a shootout with smugglers.
“The change in the rules of engagement is the result of a change in the nature of the threat. Therefore, the results were decisive,” he said.
The army claims to have killed around 30 smugglers, including 27 people in one day. Al-Hiyari, director of the army’s information directorate, also said large amounts of hashish and 16 million narcotic pills were seized.
He said that the Syrian authorities have pledged to cooperate, but that Jordan has achieved only limited results. He added that in some cases Syrian police had even cooperated with smugglers along the porous border.
“It didn’t bear fruit for long periods of time, which forced us to change the rules of engagement,” he said of Syrian aid pledges.
As he spoke, soldiers stood by and army vehicles patrolled along the border. Al-Hiyari said the mission was also aimed at stopping the shipment of drugs out of Jordan and through the region.
An illegal drug industry has flourished in Syria after 10 years of civil war. In recent years, the Mediterranean Arab country has become a hotspot for the manufacture and sale of captagon, an illegal amphetamine. Syria and neighboring Lebanon have become gateways for drugs 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 border. A month later, King Abdullah II of Jordan 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, greeting army personnel and stressing the need to firmly combat infiltration and smuggling, the Royal Court said.
According to the Jordanian army, last year the army foiled around 361 infiltration or smuggling attempts and 48 smuggling operations.
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