The U.S. Justice Department announced its first ever extradition request to the Jordanian government Tuesday, seeking a Hamas terrorist who killed a U.S. citizen for trial in an American court.
The request called for the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi, who was serving time in an Israeli jail for her role in planning a suicide bombing attack on behalf of Hamas at a restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001. She was controversially released as part of a prisoner exchange with Jordan in 2011.
Tamimi was a 20-year-old university student during the Hamas suicide terror attack, which killed 15 people, including seven children, a pregnant woman and an American. Tamimi reportedly surveyed multiple sites for Hamas before the attack so suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri could kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. She picked a popular fast-food restaurant around lunchtime when it was the most crowded. In addition to the fatalities, 130 people were injured.
Tamimi became a television personality in Jordan after the prisoner exchange for the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit despite having been sentenced in Israel to 16 consecutive life sentences. After Tamimi was released in 2011, she told an interview with the Jordanian Amman News website she did "not regret" her role in the terror attack and said "Allah granted me success," referring to the death toll.
Before President Donald Trump took office, the only legal proceedings that had been taken by the U.S. federal government against terrorists who killed Americans abroad were either through criminal proceedings in Israeli courts or civil wrongful death proceedings brought by a victims’ family. While 64 American citizens have been killed by Arab terrorists in Israel since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Justice Department's extradition request Tuesday represented the first time the U.S. justice system has sought jurisdiction.
The decision was lauded by Shurat HaDin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, whose law firm represents the families of one of the victims, Chana Nachenberg, who suffered serious injuries in the suicide bombing and remains in a coma in Israel.
"We are glad that the US 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," HaDin said in an official statement Tuesday.
Jordan faces a tough choice between honoring its strong alliance with the U.S. by granting its extradition request or upsetting its majority Palestinian population by doing so since Tamimi has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israel rule since the attack, HaDin said.