TEL AVIV – In a first, the U.S. has issued an extradition request for a Jordanian woman charged with the killing of Americans in a Jerusalem bombing during the Second Intifada.
In 2003, Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in an Israeli court over the bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in 2001, which claimed the lives of 15 people and injured more than 130 others. Two of those killed were U.S. citizens. Al-Tamimi was sentenced to life imprisonment but released eight years later in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange with Hamas for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Officials from the U.S. Justice Department charged Al-Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals, and requested Jordan extradite her to stand trial in the U.S.
Al-Tamimi, a Hamas operative, led a suicide bomber thought to be carrying ten kilos of explosives in a rigged guitar to the Jerusalem restaurant.
Mary McCord, the acting head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said Al-Tamimi was an “unrepentant terrorist.”
“The charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable.”
Al Jazeera reported that Al-Tamimi could face the death penalty if found guilty in the U.S.
In video clips disseminated after her release, Al-Tamimi brags about her involvement in different attacks against Israelis.
After leaving prison, Al-Tamimi returned to her home country of Jordan, where she has been working as a television host. On her show, she hosted Hamas member Saleh Arouri, who ordered the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014, the Jerusalem Post reported. Al-Tamimi is considered a symbol of the Palestinian struggle, the report said.
According to Israel Law Center Shurat Hadin, which is representing one of the victim’s family members, Jordan will need to walk a fine line between its ties to the U.S. and loyalty to its Palestinian-majority population.
Shurat Hadin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said: “We are glad that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to move forward against this notorious mass murderer. We have been requesting for a long time that this unrepentant Palestinian terrorist be rearrested, extradited and prosecuted by American law enforcement officials.”
“It was outrageous that Israel released this criminal with so much innocent blood on her hands and who has publicly rejoiced that she killed eight Jewish children. For too long Jordan has become a safe haven for Palestinian terrorists and, hopefully, this is a change of policy for the new Trump administration, to start to pursue the numerous Palestinians who have killed U.S. citizens in Israel,” she said.
The FBI has added Al-Tamimi to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists.