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Iraq militant threat brings Jordan truck shipping to a halt

By Omar Obeidat - Feb 12,2015 - Last updated at Feb 12,2015

AMMAN – Jordanian truck drivers have quit the "lawless" route inside Iraq as it is controlled not only by the so-called Islamic State (IS) militants but also by other sectarian militias, president of the Jordan Truck Owners Association, Mohammad Dawood, said Thursday.

Truckers, upon warnings by the association, have stopped going to Iraq since mid last year due to security concerns, Dawood told The Jordan Times in a phone interview. 

IS militants are mainly based in Sunni areas, some of them close to the Jordanian border, he said, adding that truckers sometimes encountered security risks by militants from Iran-backed and Shiite groups. 

"There are also unidentified militias whose affiliation we cannot recognise," said Dawood, who estimated losses of the truck transport sector due to violence in Iraq and Syria at more than JD300 million over the past four years. 

"We advised truck owners to stop heading to Iraq in order to avoid kidnapping, extortion or execution by terrorists," he added. 

Mohammad Fawzi, a Jordanian truck driver, confirmed Dawood's remarks. 

After driving just few kilometres inside Iraqi territory, drivers are stopped for inspection by IS militants who charge $200 for any truck going to Iraq, the trucker said, adding the militants sometimes confiscate the shipment. 

“I don’t go to Iraq anymore because my life is at risk there,” he said, noting that his last trip to Iraq was some eight months ago. 

Fawzi said in some parts of Iraq, armed men ask about the destination of the shipment and force drivers either to unload the shipment or change the route to unload in areas under their control. 

“For example, extremist Sunni militants sometimes forced us to deliver to Sunni areas, and sometimes Shiite armed groups asked us to head to southern parts of the country,” where Shiites are the dominant population component, the driver explained.  

The trucker said the Turaibil border crossing is still run by the Iraqi government army but with oversight by west Iraq Sunni tribes.  

According to Dawood, trucks used to deliver fruits and vegetables, grain and food commodities. 

 

Regional instability goes beyond Syria and Iraq

 

Syria and Iraq were the major markets for the Jordanian land cargo sector, according to Dawood, who indicated that security chaos in other countries also hit the industry. 

The Libyan, Yemeni, Lebanese and Turkish markets were also lucrative destinations for trucks owned by Jordanians, he said, adding that instability in Libya and Yemen forced owners to stop sending their trucks there, while trouble in Syria affected transit to Turkey, Lebanon and Eastern Europe. 

More than 4,000 trucks used to deliver goods to these markets, he said, adding that the Gulf market is currently the only safe market for exports from Jordan. 

However, as supply of trucks outweighs demand, many truck shippers are struggling with very slow business.  

According to Dawood, there are around 17,000 trucks owned by Jordanians operating inside and outside the Kingdom, out of which are 3,800 refrigerated trucks for fruit and vegetable cargo bound mainly to the Gulf market and around 2,000 trailers for shipments to regional markets.    

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