BEIRUT (AP) — An airstrike early Thursday hit an alleged drug factory in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, causing damage but there was not word on casualties, Syrian opposition activists said. They said the attack was believed to have been carried out by Jordan’s air force.
Jordan’s state media reported over the past weeks that several drones carrying drugs were shot down after crossing from Syria.
The Captagon industry has been a huge concern for Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, as hundreds of millions of pills have been smuggled over the years, where the drug is used recreationally and by people with physically demanding jobs to keep them alert.
Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an opposition activist who covers developments in southern Syria said the target was also used as a narcotics warehouse where smugglers would prepare and package illegal drugs before smuggling them across the southern border into Jordan.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, also reported the strike, saying the factory was destroyed. Meanwhile, the pro-government Sham FM radio station said the strike hit a farm, causing material damage. Neither immediately reported any injuries or deaths.
The strike was over the village of Um Rumman, a stone’s throw from the Jordanian border, in the Druze-majority southern Sweida province where anti-government protests have stretched for a second week.
In May, an airstrike over a village in the southern Sweida province killed a well-known Syrian drug kingpin and his family, which activists believe was conducted by the Jordanians. Amman has been concerned by militias' drug smuggling across the Syrian border into the kingdom, most notably highly addictive Captagon amphetamines, which have turned into an estimated multi-billion-dollar industry in war-torn Syria.
Jordan has never confirmed nor denied conducting May's airstrike, but has said on several occasions that it would use force in its ongoing efforts to combat smuggling across the border. Neither Jordanian officials nor Jordanian state media have yet commented on Thursday's strike.
The strike also comes as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries continue to work to rekindle ties with Damascus, after relegating Syria to a pariah state because of President Bashar Assad's brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011. The uprising later turned into an all-out war, now in its 13th year, that splintered the country and killed over 300,000 civilians in the first decade, according to the United Nations.
The United States, United Kingdom, and western governments have accused Assad and associates in Syria's cash-strapped government of taking the lead in Captagon production, and have sanctioned relatives of Assad, Lebanese drug lynchpins, businessmen and other associates in Syria for their involvement in the industry.