A Jordanian Army spokesman said the Jordanian army killed 27 people it described as armed drug smugglers trying to cross the border from Syria during a snowstorm on Thursday.
The military said civilians were killed after they opened fire on Jordanian soldiers as they tried to walk across the border. The military says it is using the weather to disguise its movements, a common tactic.
“In terms of casualties, this is the largest number we have ever seen,” Colonel Mustafa Al Hiyari, of the Jordanian Army, said in a phone interview with The New York Times.
Colonel Hiyari said that a number of other people suspected of being part of the smugglers’ operation, some of whom were injured, had retreated to Syrian territory. He said that no Jordanian soldiers were injured.
While the identities of the suspects are unclear, in the past, smugglers have come from large families and tribes whose members lived on both sides of the border. Jordanian officials say rising poverty in the area has made it easier for criminal networks to recruit traffickers. At times, the smugglers seem to get help from Syrian troops stationed along the border.
Consequences of the civil war in Syria
After a decade of fighting, many Syrians wonder if the country can ever come together again.
An investigation by The New York Times published in December showed that in the economic vacuum created by the Syrian civil war, powerful Syrians, including senior security officials and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad, are playing the role of major in the drug industry for the production and export of illegal amphetamines. Drugs are smuggled from Syria mainly through Jordan and Lebanon, and then beyond, the report said.
“Since 2021, we have seen a large increase in smuggling activities across the border with Syria,” Mr. Last week, he said, a Jordanian Military officer killed and three others injured in a similar incident. The military later relaxed the rules of fighting along the border, giving it more time to shoot at people it suspected of being smugglers.
“Because the judge recently changed the rules of engagement, this allowed us to shoot smugglers if they were using weapons,” said Colonel Hiyari.
The military displayed photos showing what they said were bags of seized drugs on their Twitter account and claimed in a statement that it would disrupt subsequent attempts with an “iron fist”.
Rayan Marouf, a Syrian activist who recorded casualties at the Jordan border, said at least 15 people have been reported missing from the Ramthan tribe, a community living along the border in Sweida province in southern Syria. where drug trafficking is common.
People in border villages said they heard clashes during the night and stray bullets left holes in their homes, he said.
Marouf said the army’s new rules of engagement appeared to have made Thursday’s clash more dangerous. He called it a massacre, adding, “Usually at the border we record the killing of one or two smugglers.”
Jordan Army reported that in the past year it seized about 15.5 million drug pills – including captagon, an illegal amphetamine, and tramadol, a legal pain reliever. The military also said it recovered more than 16,000 hashes weighing 1,675 pounds, and nearly 4.5 pounds of heroin.
Investigation of The Times found that the bulk of captagon production and distribution was overseen by the Syrian Army’s 4th Armored Division, an elite unit commanded by President Basar al-Assad’s brother, and comprised of businessmen. individuals with close ties to the government, Hezbollah and other members of the president’s extended family.
It is part of an increasingly established drug trade that has emerged from Syria’s decades-long civil war. The war has ravaged the country’s economy, plunging many of its people into poverty and forcing members of Syria’s business, political, and military circles to seek new ways to earn hard currency and avoid Western economic sanctions.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, denies accusations of “fake news” in a televised speech last year and said the group had nothing to do with smuggling.
Rana F. Sweis Ben Hubbard and Asmaa al-Omar contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/world/middleeast/jordan-drug-smugglers-syria.html Jordanian army kills 27 in drug trafficking on Syrian border