Jordan cites rise in attempts to smuggle arms into Syria

Jordan cites rise in attempts to smuggle arms into Syria

Jordanian officials have reported a rise in attempt to smuggle guns into Syria amidst calls by local jihadists to send mujahideen fighters to combat forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, dpa reported.

According to security sources, Jordan has witnessed a rise in attempts to smuggle arms across the Jordanian-Syrian border, with border patrols reporting up to 10 attempts per week.

Jordanian official believe smugglers are using the kingdom as a "transit point" to supply weapons from Saudi Arabia to rebels in the restive southern region of Daraa - which has been the focus of a recent Syrian military crackdown.

"We are witnessing more attempt to smuggle weapons into Syria and also attempts to smuggle weapons into Jordan from neighbouring countries that we believe are destined for Syria," the source, which preferred to remain unnamed, told dpa.

Amman officially acknowledged the presence of an illegal arms trade on Wednesday, indicating that it has foiled "several" attempts by various groups to illicitly transport arms into its northern neighbour.

In a press conference late Wednesday, Public Security Department chief Hussein Majali stressed that Jordanian authorities are employing "all means" to safeguard the countries' shared borders and rejects "all interference" in Damascus's internal affairs.

The rise in arms smuggling attempts comes amidst calls for jihad by hard-line Jordanian Islamist groups.

Last month, Mohammed Abu Tahwai, a senior leader of the Jordanian jihadist Salafist movement, called on Arab and Islamic nations to send "weaponry, money and military experts" to "support Sunnis" in Syria in their struggle against the predominately Allawite regime of al-Assad.

According to the security source, Jordanian border patrols have since detained 10 jihadists attempting to cross into Syria illegally, a claim supported by Moussa Abdullat, the lawyer representing the hard-line Jordanian salafist movement.

"We have had several young members who have taken it upon themselves to wage war against the Assad regime," Abdullat told the dpa.

Abdullat said that, although the detained men - all Jordanian nationals - represent a "radical minority" of the Salafist movement, more Islamist hardliners will be tempted to take up arms against Syrian forces should the crisis tip towards sectarian conflict.

According to sources within the Jordanian Salafist movement, the Syrian crisis has split Islamist hardliners - with one faction urging the movement to reverse its recent transition into a peaceful movement and wage jihad against the Al Assad regime.

Followers of the Jordanian jihadist Salafist movement number between 2,000 and 3,000, with leaders boasting the ability to "raise an army of 10,000" should the violence in Syria continue.

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