Jor­da­nian on trial in slay­ings says he feared at­tack

Jor­dan is a U.S. ally in the re­gion, in­clud­ing in the cam­paign against Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists who con­trol ar­eas of neigh­bor­ing Syria and Iraq.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - REEM SAAD

AM­MAN, Jor­dan — A Jor­da­nian sol­dier charged with killing three U.S. Army Green Berets told a mil­i­tary court on Tues­day that he opened fire be­cause he thought fel­low Jor­da­nian troops had come un­der at­tack but that he felt no re­sent­ment to­ward Amer­i­cans.

The de­fen­dant, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, took the stand for the first time in his mur­der trial. He spoke in a low voice from a cage in the court­room, his hands grip­ping the bars.

Al-Tuwayha has pleaded in­no­cent to mur­der charges in the Novem­ber shoot­ing of the U.S. mil­i­tary train­ers who had come un­der fire at the gate of an air base in south­ern Jor­dan.

The judge has said the de­fen­dant has no ap­par­ent ties to ter­ror­ist groups.

Jor­dan is a U.S. ally in the re­gion, in­clud­ing in the cam­paign against Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists who con­trol ar­eas of neigh­bor­ing Syria and Iraq.

The shoot­ing at the alJafr air base ap­peared to strain those ties at one point.

Jor­da­nian of­fi­cials ini­tially sug­gested the U.S. sol­diers trig­gered the shoot­ing by dis­obey­ing or­ders of Jor­da­nian troops guard­ing the gate to the base.

Jor­dan later with­drew the claim.

The vic­tims were Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Mo.; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEn­roe, 30, of Tuc­son, Ariz.; and Staff Sgt. James F. Mo­ri­arty, 27, of Ker­rville, Texas.

In pre­vi­ous ses­sions, the court heard tes­ti­mony from gate guards, a crime-scene in­ves­ti­ga­tor and a foren­sics ex­pert.

Al-Tuwayha said on Tues­day that he felt no re­sent­ment to­ward the Amer­i­cans at the base and that he had joked and chat­ted with them over tea in the past. His com­ments were barely au­di­ble, and the judge re­peated them for the court.

Wit­nesses have said that a four-car con­voy ap­proached the en­trance of the base some­time be­fore noon on Nov. 4.

The first ve­hi­cle passed through an outer and an in­ner gate, en­ter­ing the base safely. Three more ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing U.S. troops stood be­tween the outer and in­ner gate when Jor­da­nian gate guards said they heard a low sound, pos­si­bly a pis­tol shot, from the di­rec­tion of the con­voy.

Three of the gate guards said they held their fire af­ter hear­ing the pis­tol be­cause they couldn’t iden­tify the ex­act source of the sound.

At the time, the de­fen­dant was in the guard­house, close to the in­ner bar­rier, to recharge the bat­tery of his wire­less de­vice, wit­nesses have said.

Al-Tuwayha said Tues­day that he heard a pis­tol shot com­ing from the di­rec­tion of the Amer­i­can con­voy. He said he could not de­ter­mine the ex­act source of the sound be­cause he couldn’t see from in­side the guard­house.

He said he opened fire be­cause he feared that his col­leagues were com­ing un­der at­tack. He said he ini­tially opened fire from in­side the guard­house, be­liev­ing he was com­ply­ing with rules of en­gage­ment. He said he didn’t aim at any­thing or any­one and had “no in­ten­tion of killing any­one.”

At some point, he emerged from the guard­house and con­tin­ued shoot­ing, ac­cord­ing to se­cu­rity cam­era video of the in­ci­dent that was de­scribed pre­vi­ously by the fa­thers of two of the slain Amer­i­can sol­diers. The video has not been made pub­lic.

One of the be­reaved fa­thers has said the shoot­ing con­tin­ued for sev­eral min­utes. Lewellen and McEn­roe were killed on the spot, while Mo­ri­arty and a sur­viv­ing U.S. sol­dier es­caped from their ve­hi­cles, re­turned fire and se­ri­ously wounded the Jor­da­nian sol­dier.

A crime-scene in­ves­ti­ga­tor pre­vi­ously told the court that mul­ti­ple rounds were fired from two M-16 as­sault ri­fles is­sued to Jor­da­nian troops, in­clud­ing from in­side the guard­house where car­tridges were later found.

A to­tal of 78 bul­lets were fired from the M-16 ri­fles, and 19 bul­lets were fired from pis­tols used by U.S. troops. The in­ves­ti­ga­tor said each of the three ve­hi­cles car­ry­ing Amer­i­cans was hit by gun­fire.

The mil­i­tary court pros­e­cu­tor said Tues­day that al-Tuwayha fired 63 bul­lets from his ri­fle.

The pros­e­cu­tor did not say who fired from the sec­ond M-16, but a wit­ness had pre­vi­ously said that shots had also been fired in the air.

The next hear­ing is set for to­day.

If con­victed, al-Tuwayha faces life in prison.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.