Skip to main content

Suspected Jordanian air strike 'kills' drug trafficker in southern Syria

UK-based war monitor says Marai al-Ramthan, one of the region's most prominent drug smugglers, was killed along with his wife and children
A picture taken during a tour organised by the Jordanian Army shows soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent drug trafficking on 17 February 2022 (AFP)
A picture taken during a tour organised by the Jordanian Army shows soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent drug trafficking on 17 February 2022 (AFP)

One of the most prominent drug smugglers in Syria has been killed by a suspected Jordanian air strike, according to a UK-based war monitor. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that Marai al-Ramthan, his wife and six children, were killed “in a Jordanian air force strike” in the Sweida province of southern Syria, near the border with Jordan

“Ramthan is considered to be the most prominent drug trafficker in the region, and the number one smuggler of drugs, including Captagon, into Jordan,” the Observatory said. 

The war monitor condemned the killing of Ramthan’s wife and children, stating that it was unjust “under any pretext”. 

Jordan has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the air strike. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"When we take any steps to protect our national security... we will announce them at the appropriate time," Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday. 

"Drugs... are a great threat to the kingdom, the region and the world as smuggling operations soar."

In December, Jordanian authorities seized six million amphetamine pills at the Iraqi border on Sunday, the kingdom's largest drug bust.

The pills were discovered at the Iraq-Jordan border crossing of Al-Karamah and were coming from Syria, which has become one of the foremost makers of Captagon in the world. 

Jordan is largely a transit country for the drug's biggest markets: the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia.

As fighting from the decade-long war in Syria has died down, the country has been transformed into a "narco-state".

The UK Foreign Office  previously said 80 percent of the world’s supply is produced in Syria and shipped from the port of Latakia.

captagon syria map

Captagon was a legal drug for almost 25 years. It was developed in West Germany in 1961 and was prescribed for the treatment of depression and for ADHD in children. However, in 1986, the World Health Organisation labelled it a controlled substance.

Trade in Captagon in the Middle East grew exponentially in 2021 to top $5bn, posing an increasing health and security risk to the region, a report by the New Lines Institute said in April. 

The attack on Ramthan comes just days after several Arab foreign ministers met in Amman to discuss Syria enhancing cooperation with countries impacted by “drug trafficking and smuggling across the Syrian border,” according to Jordan’s foreign ministry. 

Over the weekend, Syria was welcomed back into the Arab League after a decade-long suspension following President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters sparking Syria’s civil war. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.