Jordanian military kills 27 in shootout with armed smugglers from Syria

Army says large quantities of narcotics were seized in clashes that also left several people wounded; soldiers acted in line with new rules of engagement to protect border

Illustrative: Jordanian soldiers stand at the northeastern border with Syria, Feb. 14, 2017. (Raad Adayleh/AP)
Illustrative: Jordanian soldiers stand at the northeastern border with Syria, Feb. 14, 2017. (Raad Adayleh/AP)

AMMAN, Jordan — The Jordanian military said Thursday that troops killed 27 suspected smugglers attempting to enter the country from neighboring Syria.

The report on the army’s website said that it had thwarted several suspected attempts to smuggle drugs into Jordan from Syria, and that large quantities of narcotics were seized in separate interventions that also left several people wounded.

The military said that it was “continuing to apply the newly established rules of engagement and will strike with an iron fist and deal with force and firmness with any infiltration or smuggling attempts to protect the borders.”

“The smugglers were supported by other armed groups,” added the army, which said its troops also wounded an unknown number of traffickers while others fled back into Syrian territory.

Earlier this month the military said an army officer was killed in a shootout with smugglers along the long porous border it shares with Syria.

Jordan is home to more than 650,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war that has raged there for more than a decade.

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 has in recent years tightened controls along its border with Syria, which stretches for more than 350 kilometers (220 miles).

Several dozen fighters, many of them extremists, have been arrested and imprisoned for attempting to enter Syrian territory from Jordan to fight in the civil war there.

Jordanian authorities say that 85 percent of the drugs seized in the country are meant to transit the kingdom and bound for other countries.

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 hot spot for making and selling captagon, an illegal amphetamine. Both Syria and neighboring Lebanon have become gateways for the drug to the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf.

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime said in a 2014 report that the amphetamine market is on the rise in the Middle East, with busts mostly in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria accounting for more than 55 percent of amphetamines seized worldwide.

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