Video shows US soldiers surrendering before fatal shooting in Jordan

AMMAN (NYTIMES) - Newly released video of the killing of three US Special Forces soldiers in November at the gate of a military base in Jordan shows that the episode, which was initially explained as a split-second mistake by a Jordanian guard firing on Americans who failed to stop, was actually a six-minute gun battle where Americans crouched behind barriers and repeatedly waved their hands in surrender as the gunman closed in and killed them.

The footage, which was made public on Monday (July 24) by the Jordanian military, contradicts statements Jordanian officials initially made saying that the Americans had failed to stop at the gate, or that the accidental discharge of a US weapon sparked the shooting.

The video makes it clear that the gunman, Ma'arik al-Tawayha, a Jordanian air force sergeant, deliberately fired at two of the soldiers.

Al-Tawayha, who was wounded in the gunfight, was sentenced last week to life in prison for the killing of Staff Sgt Matthew C Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt Kevin J McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt James F Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The verdict sparked street protests among members of al-Tawayha's influential tribe, the Howeitat, who said he had acted within the rules of engagement and was being punished to placate a powerful ally. According to the Jordanian news media, the authorities responded with arrests and what the tribe says were intentional Internet blackouts to limit spread of news of the protests, but the tribe has continued to press for a new trial.

Mr James R. Moriarty, a Houston lawyer and father of Moriarty, said on Monday that he was briefed by the FBI, which told him the video was released by Jordanian authorities to defuse protests and keep al-Tawayha from being extolled as a martyr.

"Jordan tried to minimise this, saying it was the Americans' fault, and now it has come back to haunt them," Mr Moriarty said.

It remained unclear whether the video would appease those in Jordan who felt al-Tawayha had been wrongfully convicted.

The case has baffled investigators from both countries, who have not found any indications that al-Tawayha had extremist views that would have led him to kill Americans.