On April 24, Syrian security forces launched a special operation in the Druze town of Salkhad in southern al-Suwayda to arrest wanted individuals.
A source in al-Suwayda Police Department told the Syrian Arab News Agency (SAN) that special forces, police units as well as local armed groups are taking part in the operation, which is aimed at securing the town.
According to local sources, the operation is targeting an infamous gang led by Nawras al-Eid, who is wanted on several criminal charges. The gang is reportedly involved in theft, ransom kidnapping and even murder.
Security forces, backed by a local armed group, stormed al-Eid’s villa in Slkhad on April 24 afternoon. Several suspects were arrested. However, al-Eid managed to flee.
The SANA released photos showing loads of light caliber ammunition and hand grenades which were seized inside the villa. A source in the police said several IDs and documents of people who were abducted by the gang in the past were also found in the villa.
“The operation is still ongoing and the rest of the wanted individuals will be pursued until they are apprehended,” a security source told the SANA on April 25.
In the last few years, several armed groups were formed in al-Suwayda under the pretext of protecting local Druze communities. While many of them indeed played this role, others became infamous for arms and drug trafficking as well as for ransom kidnappings and theft.
Government forces confronted these groups on many occasions. The most recent incident took place on March 26, when the Syrian military killed four local gunmen who attacked one of its checkpoints near the town of Sad al-Ain in southeast al- Suwayda.
Syrian security forces will likely carry out more operations against rogue groups in al-Suwayda in the near future. Damascus has apparently taken the decision to put an end to actions of these groups. Local observers believe that some of these groups could be linked to hostile foreign actors.