AMMAN, June 13 (Reuters) – The Jordanian army said on Tuesday it had downed a drone carrying drugs from Syria into its northern frontier region, and it said Jordan would not allow the border area to become a front line in an Iran-linked drug war.
The kingdom has blamed pro-Iranian militias, who it says are protected by units within the Syrian army, for smuggling drugs across its borders towards lucrative Persian Gulf markets.
Damascus says it is doing its best to curb smuggling and continues to bust smuggler rings in the south. It denies complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces.
The sharp rise in smuggling attempts has forced Jordan since last year to change army rules of engagement along the border, giving its military the authority to use overwhelming force.
“We are continuing to deal with resolve and force with any threat to our borders and any attempt to destabilise the security of the nation,” the army said in a statement.
The plane was intercepted and downed on its side of the border, it said.
War-torn Syria has become the region’s main site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan a main transit route to the oil-rich Persian Gulf states for Syrian-made amphetamine known as captagon, Western anti-narcotics officials and Washington say.
Jordanian officials say they have raised their concerns with Syrian authorities but have not seen any real attempt to clamp-down on the illicit trade.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Angus MacSwan)