Airstrikes kill known Syrian drug lord

Akash Arjun
Akash Arjun

Global Courant 2023-05-08 13:57:45

BEIRUT (AP) — Airstrikes over southern Syria killed one of the country’s best-known drug dealers early Monday, an opposition war monitor and a pro-government radio station reported.

The strikes come a day after Arab governments readmitted Syria back into the Arab League after the country was suspended over a crackdown on protests. As Arab governments gradually rekindled ties with Damascus, one of the main topics of conversation has been Syria’s illicit drug industry, which has thrived during the ongoing conflict – most notably the illicit amphetamine captagon.

Western governments estimate that Captagon has generated billions of dollars in revenue for President Bashar Assad, his Syrian collaborators and allies. Damascus has denied the allegations.

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The first attack hit a house in the Syrian village of Shuab in Sweida province near the Jordanian border, killing Merhi Ramthan, his wife and six children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The opposition war monitor and Sham FM reported another attack in southern Daraa province that hit a building. The Observatory said the building housed a drug factory.

The pro-government radio station gave no further details. There was no immediate comment from Jordanian or Syrian authorities.

Activists and the war monitor said they believe Jordan is likely behind the airstrike, with the captagon producer one of the most wanted by Jordanian authorities for facilitating drug smuggling across the border with the support of a small militia. They also say he has close ties to militias linked to Assad and the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Jordan has regularly reported drug smuggling operations on its border with Syria, sometimes with its soldiers participate in shootings with drug cartels trying to break through from southern Syria. In recent years, Jordanian authorities have uncovered millions of smuggled captagon pills, many of which were sent to oil-rich Gulf states.

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Both Syria and neighboring Lebanon have become gateways for the drug to the Middle East, particularly the Gulf.

In March, US and UK sanctions imposed about four Syrians and two Lebanese involved in captagon production and trade.

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The six include nephews of the Syrian president and well-known Lebanese drug kingpins. Weeks later, the European Union imposed sanctions on several Syrians, including members of Assad’s family, accusing them of manufacturing and trafficking narcotics, most notably Captagon.

Airstrikes kill known Syrian drug lord

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