Jordan army downs drone carrying weapon parts from Syria

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The Jordanian army said on Friday that units on the country’s eastern border shot down a drone carrying weapon parts from Syria.

Border guards, in coordination with other security agencies, spotted the drone and downed it on Jordan’s side of the border, an army statement said.

The drone was found to be carrying weapons parts, the army said, adding that it will continue to deal with “any threat to our borders, and any attempt to destabilize the security of the country and terrorize its people.”

It was the second drone to be shot down by the Jordan army in a week.

On June 14, it downed a drone carrying highly addictive crystal methamphetamine drugs from Syria into Jordan’s northern region.

A security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that drug smugglers from Syria are resorting to drones, because “they know that all their large-scale smuggling operations will be foiled by the army.”

The source added: “They know that helicopters and other heavy weaponry will be chasing them, even deep inside Syria. They know of the change in the rules of engagement. No more warning shots but killing.”

Asked where smugglers obtain drones and other advanced technologies, the source stopped short of identifying any party, but said smugglers are mostly “simple farmers. We even know them by name. States or highly organized groups are probably the sources of such sophisticated technology.”

Jordan has always blamed Iran and its proxies in Syria for smuggling drugs across its borders toward lucrative markets in the Gulf.

It has stepped up its fight against illicit drug trafficking from Syria, with the army announcing a change in the rules of engagement along its northeastern border with Syria, which stretches to about 400 km.

In January last year, the army said it killed 27 infiltrators trying to smuggle “large amounts” of narcotics from Syria into Jordan.

The operation followed a directive by the army chief to change the rules of engagement.

Jordan is believed to have carried out rare airstrikes on Syria’s southern Daraa province in May that the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said hit an abandoned drug facility linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

A few days after the attacks, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah denied his Shiite group’s involvement in any illicit drug activity in Syria, but admitted it smuggles weapons.

According to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hezbollah has expanded its drug trafficking operations, which now generate more money than its other funding streams.

The think tank said that the group’s global narcotics trade began in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the 1970s, using well-established smuggling routes across the Israel-Lebanon border.

Syria is said to have become the world’s leading narco-state and the center of a multibillion-dollar drug trade.

It has agreed to halt drug trafficking across its borders with Jordan and Iraq, and identify those who produce and transport narcotics.

The pledge came at a landmark meeting in Amman on May 1 of foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan that was also attended by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

A final statement after the meeting said Damascus agreed to “take the necessary steps to end smuggling on the borders with Jordan and Iraq,” and identify those producing and transporting narcotics into the two countries.

Syrian news outlets reported raids by the Syrian army on drug dealers in Daraa in May following the airstrikes on the southern province but added that no one was arrested as “all dealers were in hiding following the killing of the Captagon kingpin Merhi Al-Ramthan.”

Al-Ramthan, a reputed Syrian drug lord, was killed by Jordanian airstrikes on his house in the village of Shuab in the Sweida governorate.

Jordanian and Syria news websites have published reports of the Jordanian army sending SMS messages to Syrian drug kingpins warning them to surrender or face the same fate as Al-Ramthan.

The Jordanian army said that 361 smuggling attempts from Syria were foiled and about 15.5 million narcotic pills seized in 2021.

In the previous year, more than 130 smuggling attempts from Syria in 2020 were foiled and about 132 million amphetamine pills and 15,000 sheets of hashish seized.

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