The parents of three Army Special Forces soldiers killed in 2016 are calling for the extradition of their sons’ killer and a convicted Jordanian terrorist tied to the deaths of two U.S. citizens.
U.S. Army Green Berets on a training mission in Jordan were returning to King Faisal Air Base on Nov. 4, 2016, when a guard at the gate opened fire on their convoy, killing three soldiers before being subdued.
The guard, Jordanian airman Ma’arik al-Tawayha, was sentenced by a military court in 2017 to life in prison; however, in Jordan “life” sentences typically last 20 years.
The families of Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen, Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe, and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty sent letters to 84 members of Congress on Monday asking for al-Tawayha to be brought to the U.S. to face trial. The letters also urged members of Congress to demand an apology from King Abdullah’s government and the extradition of convicted terrorist Ahlam al-Tamimi before granting any more aid to Jordan.
The U.S. provided Jordan with $1.5 billion in 2019.
Tamimi was convicted as an accomplice to the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem. The attack resulted in the deaths of 15 people, including two Americans, and injured 130 others.
She was released to Jordan in a 2011 prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas. The families’ letters state that Tamimi has “lived freely in Jordan since her release.”
U.S. requests for her extradition have been denied by Jordan, which claims its 1995 extradition treaty with the U.S. is invalid because it was never ratified by Jordanian parliament.
“I hope this time that our representatives in Congress will be on the proactive and right side of history and not waiting for another mass killing to take action,” Cindy Lewellen, mother of Matthew Lewellen, told Military Times.
Initial claims from the Jordanian government about the three soldiers who were killed stated that they were not complying with entry procedures and that the Americans had fired first, negligently discharging a firearm in one of their vehicles. At trial, al-Tawayha testified that he was startled by a loud noise and believed the base was under attack.
Army investigators stated in their 82-page report that there was no evidence that the U.S. soldiers were not complying with entry procedures or that they fired first.
“The facts seem to indicate that there wasn’t anyone else there who thought they were under attack until he (al-Tawayha) started shooting,” Brian McEnroe, father of Kevin McEnroe, told Military Times.
McEnroe believes that al-Tawayha was following orders.
“I think that the king or someone in the king’s chain of command, ordered the killing of some Americans, and I don’t think that we have the truth right now and I don’t know that we’ll ever get it,” McEnroe said.
James R. Moriarty, father of James F. Moriarty, was hopeful that extradition might bring about closure.
“Part of why I’m demanding his extradition is because I want him interviewed again about what happened. And maybe this time we’ll get the full story,” he told Military Times.
Surveillance video released in 2017 shows the Green Berets, all of whom were at least intermediately proficient in Arabic, waving their arms after the unprompted attack began and trying to communicate to al-Tawayha that they were friendly forces.
Al-Tawayha continued to fire at U.S. troops for nearly six minutes.
“You can see how aggressive he is. You can see my son and the survivor attempting to communicate with him in Arabic, ‘we’re friends, we’re Americans,’” Moriarty told Military Times.
The parents of the other soldiers agreed; the killing was targeted.
“It’s obvious that he set out to murder our Special Forces,” said Lewellen.
In addition to petitioning Congress for action, the families of the fallen soldiers filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Jordan’s royal family in a search for answers and monetary damages. The lawyer handling the ongoing case was not immediately available for comment.
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.