- By Jesse Chase-LubitzJesse Chase-Lubitz is an American Society of Magazine Editors intern at Foreign Policy. She is currently studying history and evolutionary biology of the human species at Columbia. Before that, she worked as a professional ballet dancer in Chicago and Austin.
A Jordanian soldier with no apparent ties to terrorist groups was sentenced Monday to life in prison with hard labor for killing three U.S. Army Green Berets at the al-Jafr air base last year. There was no clear motivation for the killings.
First Sergeant Marik al-Tuwayha was accused of shooting the American soldiers, who were staying on the base to train Jordanian troops.
Jordan is a key ally to the United States in the region and part of a U.S.-led military coalition in the fight against the Islamic State. The kingdom hosts several hundred U.S. contractors, and allows the United States to use Jordanian airfields.
Witnesses to the Nov. 4 incident said that a four-car convoy was entering the base when Jordanian guards heard a low sound and thought it might be a pistol shot. Three of the gate guards said they held their fire, but Tuwayha, who was in the guard house at the time, opened fire from inside before walking out and continuing to shoot. In his account, he was not aiming at anything or anyone. A crime scene investigator said that each of the three vehicles carrying American soldiers was hit.
Jordanian authorities initially said that the U.S. trainers were shot because they did not stop their car as they drove into the gate, however, the United States disputed that claim and the Jordanian government later changed its position.
Tuwayha pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, and testified that he opened fire because he thought the base was under attack. He claimed that he had friendly relations with the U.S. soldiers, and no reason to kill them.
Relatives of the victims, who have described video of the scene, said the footage shows that Tuwayha was shooting for six minutes and did not stop even when the Americans identified themselves as allies. The video has not been released to the public.
Tuwayha faces life in prison with a possible reduction to 20 years with good behavior, a sentence that the victims’ families called insufficient. The U.S. Embassy in Jordan said that the U.S. trainers followed all procedures and they “are reassured to see the perpetrator brought to justice.”
“I have all the respect for the king,” Tuwayha said as he left the courtroom, Al Jazeera reported, “but I was doing my job.”
Photo credit: KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images