(CNSNews.com) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II received a warm welcome in Washington on Thursday, although there was no public indication that he was pressed on his country’s ongoing refusal to extradite an indicted fugitive, wanted for a bombing 22 years ago in which American citizens were killed.
He was, however, enthusiastically praised for the regional role played by his country, a leading recipient of U.S. economic and military assistance.
“The role Jordan plays as a force for stability in the Middle East can’t be overstated,” President Biden tweeted after hosting a private lunch for the king and Crown Prince al-Hussein. “I look forward to building on our nations’ enduring friendship for years to come.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who met separately with Abdullah, “reaffirmed the strength of the bilateral partnership and our commitment to Jordan’s security and economic prosperity.”
Abdullah met with senior lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member Jim Risch (R-Idaho), who said, “Jordan’s work to enhance regional security, promote moderate voices, and address the deep drivers of conflict are vital today more than ever, and the committee looks forward to continue partnering in these efforts.”
After Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the king at the Jordanian Embassy, State Department spokesman Ned Price called Jordan “an invaluable partner and an essential strategic partner on a wide range of shared concerns and regional challenges.”
“Our close cooperation on security issues has helped keep Jordanians and Americans safer over many years,” he added.
That “close cooperation” has not extended to U.S. requests for Jordan to extradite a citizen who paid a central role in a bombing of a crowded restaurant in downtown Jerusalem in August 2001.
Among 15 people killed when a Hamas suicide bomber targeted the Sbarro restaurant were American citizens Malki Roth, 15, and Judith Greenbaum, 31, who was pregnant. More than half of the 15 victims were children, aged between two and 16 years old.
Ahlam al-Tamimi, a Hamas member who scouted for attack targets and accompanied the bomber to the site, was later arrested, convicted in an Israeli court and sentenced to 16 life terms.
In 2011 she was included in a controversial prisoner exchange and deported to Jordan, where she received an enthusiastic welcome from supporters in Amman.
Two years later the Department of Justice indicted her for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals abroad. The charges were unsealed in 2017.
Jordan has refused to extradite its citizen, however, asserting that its 1995 extradition treaty with the U.S. was never ratified – a claim rejected by the U.S.
Living openly in Jordan, Tamimi has bragged publicly about her role, which she explained in one television interview included providing her Hamas “cell commander” with information about potential targets – including shopping malls, restaurants and schools – and how many people would potentially be killed if each was bombed.
Tamimi remains on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list, and the State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to her arrest or conviction. The kingdom’s refusal to extradite her has featured in the Jordan chapter of State Department’s annual reports on terrorism every year since 2017.
“The Tamimi case is one we take seriously given her role in the heinous attack that killed 15 people, including two Americans, in 2001,” a State Department official said last month. “I want to make it clear that the U.S. government is committed to seeing that Ahlam Al Tamimi faces justice in the United States.”
CNSNews.com asked the State Department on Thursday whether Blinken had raised the Tamimi extradition during their meeting earlier in the day – and if not, what steps the department has taken in recent months to demonstrate that stated commitment.
“The U.S. government is committed to seeing the terrorist Ahlam Al Tamimi face justice in the United States,” a spokesperson replied on background. “Her case is one we take seriously given her role in the heinous 2001 attack that killed 15 people, including two Americans.”
‘A crown on my head’
The Tamimi extradition issue was not mentioned in any of Thursday’s readouts, statements, or press briefing comments on the king’s D.C. visit.
“Jordan’s ruler lunches today in the White House,” tweeted Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki, 15, was killed in the 2001 bombing. “This says a lot when, as I am, you’re the father of a child whose fugitive murderer is kept sheltered by Jordan for years.”
Roth, who with his wife Frimet has been campaigning for years to see Tamimi brought to justice, also took lawmakers and others to task for honoring the Jordanian monarch.
In a 2012 Kuwaiti television interview, Tamimi explained that Hamas’ Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades had recruited her because, as a part-time journalist, her press credentials allowed her to access areas of Jerusalem where she could find potential attack targets.
“I would sit there, look at my watch, and count the number of people who entered the place in an hour,” she recalled in the interview, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“I would calculate it and report that if the operation were to take place at a certain hour, the number of Israeli casualties would be at least 30 and could even reach 50, because during this specific hour, 70 Israelis entered the place.”
“I would also check what the most suitable hours were. For example, a restaurant is frequented by Zionists mostly during lunchtime, a school in the morning,” Tamimi said. “There was an optimal time to carry out the jihadi operation.”
As recently as 2021, Tamimi was still touting her actions.
“Thanks to Allah I kept on this path, until Allah decreed that I should join the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, and that I take part in two jihadi operations, which killed 15 Zionists and wounded 122, thanks to Allah,” she said in an interview posted on a Turkey-based Palestinian youth network’s YouTube channel.
“These two jihadi operations are like a crown on my head,” Tamimi said. “By the grace of Allah, I joined the annals of history by committing the best act, the best operation.”
In line with a memorandum of understanding signed with Jordan last September, the kingdom will receive $1.45 billion in U.S. aid each year between fiscal year 2023 and fiscal year 2029.
Jordan, Recipient of Billions in US Aid, Still Won’t Extradite Terrorist Linked to Murder of Americans (Jan. 17, 2023)