Saudi Arabian police have arrested six people and seized illegal drugs worth 1 billion riyals ($267 million) that were being smuggled into the country from the neighboring island nation of Bahrain, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday. The drug seized, called Captagon, is one of the most popular in the Middle East.
Spokesman Major General Mansour Turki said authorities had detained five Saudi citizens and one Bahraini in the operation after police found 22.6 million of the amphetamine pills hidden inside coils of barbed wire and rolls of plastic.
Drug smuggling can be punished by death in the conservative kingdom. All narcotics and alcohol are illegal in Saudi Arabia, which applies, Sharia, or Islamic law.
An investigation into the seizure of the drugs turned up a connection to an international drug smuggling ring led by a Syrian national, Turki told the state news agency SPA.
In 2010, around 7 tons of Captagon tablets were smuggled into Saudi Arabia. The Middle East represents about a third of the estimated total world supply, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Production of Captagon in Syria has soared over the past two years as a result of the breakdown in order caused by the country's devastating civil war.
The Saudi government is a leading supporter of rebels fighting to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is a major ally of the kingdom's top regional rival, Iran.