“The release of the surveillance video clearly shows that this was not a case of self-defense or an accident.”
The Jordanian government has released the surveillance video of an attack by a member of the Jordanian Air Force on United States Army Special Forces soldiers last November. The attack killed three of the Green Berets. There has been confusion about what exactly happened at the entrance to the King Faisal Air Base and what motive, if any, led to First Sergeant Ma’arik al-Tawayha’s attack on the convoy carrying the Americans.
Killed in the attacked were 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. A fourth Green Beret survived the attack and has told his story to investigators. The Special Forces soldiers were in Jordan as part of a covert Central Intelligence Agency program training Syrian rebels for the fight against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria.
Until the release of the video, the Jordanian government has portrayed the incident as an accident. They blamed the Americans for failing to follow protocol when entering the base and have said that al-Tawayha believed the base was under attack and was acting in self-defense. The release of the surveillance video clearly shows that this was not a case of self-defense or an accident.
In the video, the convoy carrying the Green Berets can be seen slowly approaching the base entry control point and being stopped as they passed through the gate. There is no sound. The attacker is off screen at the outset, but it is obvious that the Americans are being fired upon. They can be seen leaving their vehicles and taking cover behind barriers on the side of the road. They also are seen putting their hands in the air to show they are friendly and appear to be shouting at the attacker to stop firing.
They flee from their positions, and al-Tawayha appears in the lower right. He moves up to the vehicles and continues to fire at the Americans as they take cover. He then rushes the Americans in their covered positions. After a close quarters engagement, the attacker is wounded and the attack is over.
Al-Tawayha was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor, and his conviction has caused protests in Jordan. His tribe, the Howeitat, believe that he was convicted solely to please the United States. The Jordanian military and the FBI decided to release the video in hopes that it would calm the unrest caused by the conviction.
Though the motive remains unclear, the attack and the video of it demonstrate some of the unique dangers US military personnel continue to face in the Middle East. In this case, the Green Berets were wearing no body armor or helmets. They wore baseball caps and civilian clothes and carried no assault weapons or radios.
Even when not in combat zones like Syria and Iraq, Americans have been targeted. Military personnel from allied nations can, and as this unfortunate incident clearly demonstrates, be a continued threat.