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Jordan releases video to tamp down support for Green Berets' killer

Jordan releases video to tamp down support for Green Berets' killer
A gunman, seen in an image from video, stalks two American Green Berets at King Faisal air base in Jordan. (Facebook)

When a military court sentenced a Jordanian soldier to life imprisonment this month for killing three U.S. Special Forces soldiers in November, many in the country saw the verdict as a capitulation to the demands of U.S. authorities. They insisted the soldier, 1st Sgt. Maarek Abu Tayeh (also known as Tawayha), was a "hero" who was just doing his duty, and held protests demanding his release.

But on Monday, Jordan's army released security camera images of the incident, which showed a six-minute hunt in which Abu Tayeh stalked the lightly armed Green Berets, despite repeated attempts by the Americans to show they were friendly.

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فيديو حادثة إطلاق النار في الجفر صرح مصدر مسؤول في القيادة العامة للقوات المسلحة الأردنية – الجيش العربي، أن وقائع القضية المدان بموجبها الرقيب أول معارك سامي سالم التوايهه، واستناداً لقرار وبينات المحكمة المُشكلة وفقا للقانون، تؤكد بأنه قد خالف الأوامر والتعليمات العسكرية المعمول بها على مداخل المعسكرات، ولم يكن في حالة الدفاع عن النفس، ولم يستأذن أو يُؤمر نهائياً باستخدام القوة تجاه الجنود الامريكيين، ولم يتم تهديده من أي جهة، وهو من قام بإطلاق النار تجاههم، بالرغم من اتباعهم جميع التعليمات التي تسمح لهم بالدخول من بوابة القاعدة، وهو يعلم، بحكم وظيفته في ذلك اليوم، بخروجهم ومتى سيعودون من الواجب الذي ذهبوا إليه. وأضاف المصدر، أن المحكمة التي حوكم أمامها الرقيب أول معارك أبو تايه، محكمة شُكلت طبقاً للقانون الأردني، وهو إجراء معمول به في القضاء العسكري بعشرات الحالات الشبيهة، بعد أن أَسندت له النيابة العامة تهم القتل القصد والإساءة لكرامة وسمعة القوات المسلحة، ومخالفة الأوامر العسكرية خلافاً لأحكام قانون العقوبات العسكري، ومنافيا لدستور الشرف العسكري ونواميس الجندية. وتابع المصدر: لقد أصدرت المحكمة حكمها وفقاً للقانون الأردني، على الرقيب أول معارك أبوتايه، وبما يتناسب مع التهم المسندة إليه، بعد مواجهته بالأدلة والبينات والصور التي تدينه، وباعترافه شخصياً بارتكاب جريمة القتل بحق الجنود الأمريكان الذين نقدم لذويهم وأصدقائهم التعازي. وقال، ستبقى القوات المسلحه الأردنية - الجيش العربي، درع الوطن وحصنه المنيع، وعنوان أمنه واستقراره، ورمز الشرف والكبرياء والفروسية والتضحية والفداء وهيبة الوطن. حادثة إطلاق النار في الجفر – رواية الفيديو الوقت القصة المرحلة الأولى–الحالة الطبيعية 12:04:53 حالة البوابة الاعتيادية : إجراء الدخول العادي.. السيارات تنتظر. 12:05:06 الحارس على الحاجز يزيل المانع الشوكي على الطريق وفقا للإجراءات الاعتيادية، الحارس في وضعية ارتياح ويده التي تحمل السلاح في وضعية حرة السلاح ليس في قبضة اليد). 12:05:21 حارس الحاجز يفتح الحاجز تتحرك المركبات ببطء عبر البوابة 12:05:34 سيارة إسعاف تدخل البوابة الحارس يقف بارتياح المرحلة 2 – إطلاق نار ورد فعل 12:05:38 إطلاق النار على السيارة رقم 2. الحطام والدخان يتحرك من اليمين إلى اليسار، بعيدا عن البوابة. الرقيب1 كيفن ماكنرو والرقيب 1 ماثيو لويلن قتلا. 12:05:40 حارس الحاجز يتفاعل مع إطلاق النار، ويحرر الحاجز ويتخذ ساتراً ليحتمي به بعيدا عن البوابة. 12:05:48 حارس المبنى يفتح الباب, يري الارتباك واطلاق نار . 12:06:02 مركبات عدد 2 متابعة الهجوم من كوخ الخفير 12:06:06 الرقيب 1 جمس موريارتي والجندي الاخر خرجا من السيارة 3 و4 وقامو بالرد على النار والاحتماء بساتر. 12:07:18 استمرار إطلاق النار 12:07:28 الجنديان الأمريكيان يرفعان أيديهم في الهواء للإشارة أنهم أصدقاء.. معارك استمر بإطلاق النار 12:08:10 الجندي الأمريكي يرفع يديه مدة 14 ثانية مستمرة للإشارة أنه من القوات الصديقة المرحلة 3 - الاعتداء ومعالجة الموقف 12:08:55 الجنديان الأمريكيان يركضان ويتخذان ساترا يحتميان به 12:09:56 معارك يظهر للمرة الاولى على الكاميرا وهو يرتدي واقيات الرصاص ويحمل بندقية م16 ويتقدم باتجاه المركبة رقم 3. 12:10:10 معارك يهاجم الجنود الأمريكان 12:10:13 الجنديان الأمريكيان يردان على إطلاق النار. 12:10:14 معارك يطلق النار على الرقيب اول جيمس موريارتي ويسقط مورياتي بجانب الحاجز . 12:10:16 معارك يطلق النار ويسقط ... الجندي الأمريكي الرابع يعيق معارك ولا يقتله بإطلاق النار عليه أو بالقرب منه. 12:10:44 الجندي الأمريكي الرابع يركض ويديه في الهواء باتجاه موقع حارس البوابة. 12:10:55 الجندي الأمريكي الرابع وحارس البوابة يهربان سوية 12:10:58 نهاية تسلسل الأحداث #نزاهة_القضاء_العسكري #الأردن #القوات_المسلحة_الأردنية #الجيش_العربي

Posted by ‎Jordan Armed Forces القوات المسلحة الاردنية‎ on Monday, July 24, 2017

Three soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were killed in the shooting at the King Faisal air base in the area of Jafr, in the south of Jordan. The incident left the government in Amman struggling to justify Abu Tayeh's actions to its U.S. ally even as an FBI and Special Operations Command investigation rebuffed Jordanian explanations.

Jordanian officials had initially blamed the American troops for not stopping at the base's gate and properly identifying themselves, with some going so far as to say the Green Berets had been drunk.

A later version of events said that Abu Tayeh had fired after hearing a gunshot and that the fire exchange “was quickly halted upon knowing that friendly U.S. members were on the other side,” according to a letter addressed to Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) by Jordan’s ambassador to Washington, Dina Kawar, in March.

The video, which was previously shown to the U.S. as well as to the parents of the slain soldiers, contradicts both accounts.

A pin bearing the image of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, a slain Green Beret, is worn by his father, Charles, in Amman, Jordan, on July 17, 2017.
A pin bearing the image of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, a slain Green Beret, is worn by his father, Charles, in Amman, Jordan, on July 17, 2017. (Reem Saad / Associated Press)

It opens with a four-vehicle convoy bearing the Americans rolling to a halt after passing a gate that is opened and closed by a Jordanian soldier.

The first sign anything is wrong comes when bullets fired from off-camera strike a white pickup with the Americans inside. Two soldiers, Moriarty and an unnamed Green Beret, run out of the third and fourth vehicles in the convoy and take cover behind concrete barriers. They pop their heads to shout at Abu Tayeh, waving their arms above their heads (at one point for a full 14 seconds) to stop his attack.

When the Americans run to another set of barriers, Abu Tayeh runs up to them armed with an M-16 and wearing a bulletproof vest. As he raises his rifle to shoot, Moriarty pops up with a pistol and fires a bullet before being cut down. It gives the other Green Beret the time needed to swing around the concrete barrier and shoot Abu Tayeh in the neck, critically wounding him.

Other Jordanian soldiers seen in the video run away and hide during the gun battle, while other vehicles approaching the base appear to be unaware of the firefight.

The video does not show what first spurred Abu Tayeh to attack. It has no sound and is recorded from a vantage point that keeps Abu Tayeh obscured for most of its duration.

The Green Berets were involved in a training program for Syrian rebels.

A public version of a Special Operations Command report on the investigation denied there had been any alcohol and said the Americans had followed protocol.

Abu Tayeh was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor last week. Because no links were found to terrorist entities, he was charged as a criminal, meaning he could not be given the death penalty under Jordanian law. Nevertheless, he insisted he was not guilty and had been acting in self-defense. (This despite having fired 63 rounds of his M-16 at the Americans, who were armed only with pistols, according to the report.)

Maarek Abu Tayeh stands behind bars on July 17, 2017, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, during his trial for the killing of three American military trainers outside an army base last year.
Maarek Abu Tayeh stands behind bars on July 17, 2017, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, during his trial for the killing of three American military trainers outside an army base last year. (Khalil Mazraawi / AFP/Getty Images)

Investigators have been unable to explain Abu Tayeh's motivations. On the day of the sentencing last week, Moriarty's father, Jim R. Moriarty, said in a phone interview from Amman that he knew "less about what happened today than I knew the day it happened."

He blamed Jordan for lying "repeatedly" about the incident.

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Protests erupted in the south of Jordan after the verdict, with relatives of Abu Tayeh, who is a member of the Howeitat tribe, demanding that Jordan's King Abdullah II set him free.

The Howeitat is an important tribe in the country; its onetime leader, Auda Abu Tayeh, figured prominently in Col. T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" as well as David Lean's movie, "Lawrence of Arabia."

Members of the tribe insisted Abu Tayeh had acted in self-defense even after the video's release, saying on the Howeitat Facebook page that they were proud "of the hero Maarek who defended the base while others hid."

They vowed Abu Tayeh would be released.

But a damning statement from the Jordanian armed forces released early Tuesday confirmed that Abu Tayeh had "violated the military orders and instructions that are in place at the entrances of bases."

It added that his behavior was not "in self-defense," that he was "not threatened by any party," and that he had fired at the Americans even though they had followed "all instructions that allowed them to enter the gate of the base" and that he knew they had left "and when they would return."

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Bulos is a special correspondent.

Twitter: @nabihbulos

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