The Syrian regime’s military security and pro-Iran militants are imposing royalties on merchants amounting to millions of Syrian pounds in exchange for allowing them to enter food staples and goods into Daraa province, taking advantage of sporadic military checkpoints located on international roads in southern Syria.
The Ahrar Horan Gathering quoted a trader in the Daraa city as saying that while passing through the Menket al-Hatab checkpoint, they were imposed on a load containing foodstuffs coming from Damascus to Daraa, an estimated 600,000 pounds (About $170).
If the required amount is not paid, the officer gives orders to search the truck chaotically, sabotaging a large number of the goods and stealing a number of others, the trader told Horan Gathering, adding that all merchants are afraid that the officers will place prohibited materials during the inspection to confiscate the load completely.
The local monitoring group also quoted another trader as saying that the same checkpoint of the Military Security Branch had detained a number of trucks loaded with chickpeas and wheat in February, and requested the hand over 10 Kalashnikovs or its equivalent in U.S. dollars in exchange for the release of the goods.
The military security threatened its owners with ‘terror’ charges if they refused, as the regime prevents trafficking in wheat, according to the Gathering.
The elite Fourth Division checkpoint in the Menket al-Hatab was set up in October 2021 near a checkpoint affiliated with the Military Security, with the aim of facilitating the passage of trucks loaded with drugs on orders from the head of the Fourth Division’s security office, Colonel Mohamed al-Issa.
In the same month, a security patrol of the State Security in Jassim town raided a jewelry store and arrested the owner, Mohamed A on charges of buying stolen jewelry, but after a while he was released and his sons after paying a huge cash amount to the branch, according to a source close to the jeweler, noting that all charges were fabricated by the branch for blackmailing purposes.
The Ahrar Houran Gathering had previously revealed details showing the involvement of security agents working in the Branch 215 of the Military Intelligence Division in the kidnapping of the child Fawaz al-Qutayfan, in partnership with the head of the tasks department in the Military Security in the town of Izraa called Abu Jaafar, who operates under Brigadier General Loay al-Ali in Branch 265.
Several kidnappings and arrests proved the involvement of Abu Jaafar with local collaborators in requesting large sums of money in exchange for the release of the victims.
The regime’s officers gave the 215th raid brigade the power to self-finance themselves through looting and thefts, and to demand financial ransoms from the kidnapped, in return for carrying out security tasks for the benefit of the brigade, most notably the assassinations against opponents of the Syrian regime and Iran.
Among the actions carried out by the raid brigade is the arrest of people from Daraa, to request sums of money ranging between 15 and 20 million Syrian pounds in exchange for their release, on the pretext that there is a security chip against them with the secretariat.
Daraa, which borders Jordan and is close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is widely seen as the cradle of the 2011 uprising in Syria, which sparked a decade-long civil war that has killed almost half a million people.
The rebels hung on until 2018. But after weeks of deadly fighting, the Russia-backed regime retook control under a surrender deal.
Moscow had brokered similar so-called “reconciliation” accords in Syria’s second city of Aleppo, as well the Eastern Ghouta region, outside the capital Damascus, according to the AFP.
Under those deals, rebels handed over their heavy weapons and left on buses. But in Daraa, many former opposition fighters stayed behind.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.