20 arrested in crackdown on drug traffickers after clashes in northern Syria
The arrests occurred after clashes erupted on Monday evening between the Thaeroon Liberation Organisation – formed of factions operating under the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army – and armed drug-trafficking gangs working in and around the northern city of Marea.
“The formations of the National army carried out a security campaign against gangs of drug dealers in the city of Marea… about 20 people have been arrested so far,” Al-Farouq Abu Bakr, a member of the Thaeroon Liberation Organisation's leadership council, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
“[The campaign] will continue until the area is completely cleansed… of these criminals,” Abu Bakr added.
A member of the block was reportedly slightly injured during the “violent” clashes, as the gangs “used bombs and [other] weapons”, military sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
Some of the suspected traffickers who were wanted “surrendered themselves automatically” while others fled “and were chased out of the region”, many of whom were arrested after being chased, according to Abu Bakr.
The leader of the group also stated that "significant quantities of drugs” were found and seized following the operation, including over 2,000 captagon pills and about 3 kilograms of cannabis.
An illegal drug industry has flourished in Syria following 10 years of civil war, which has seen the country emerge as a hot spot for making and selling captagon, an illegal amphetamine.
The Syrian regime previously signalled an eagerness to cooperate with the UN on fighting drug trafficking in the country, however reports claim the regime is involved in a regional crime network and engages in drug trafficking throughout the Middle East and Europe.
Over 500,000 people have been killed throughout the Syrian conflict - which saw President Bashar Al-Assad's forces violently crack down on pro-democracy protesters - mostly as at the hands of the regime and its ally Russia.