On January 15, 2019, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed an upscale hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The attack lasted over 12 hours, killing 22 people and wounding 27 others.
Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi is one of the FBI’s most wanted female terrorists, charged with helping orchestrate a 2001 Hamas suicide bombing that killed 15, including two Americans. Since 2011, however, she has resided in Jordan and publicly scoffed at U.S. attempts to bring her to justice. That needs to change.
On August 9, 2001, Tamimi drove suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri from the West Bank village of Aqabah to Jerusalem, where he set off explosives that killed 15 and wounded 130. Among the fatalities were 15-year-old Malka Roth and Shoshana Greenbaum, who was five months pregnant with her first child at the time. Both held U.S. citizenship. Israeli authorities arrested Tamimi shortly after the bombing and she was sentenced to 16 life sentences. But Tamimi was one of more than 1,000 Palestinians released from Israeli prisons in a 2011 prisoner swap with Hamas for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Tamimi in 2013 in the deaths of Roth and Greenbaum. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program has offered up to $5 million for information leading to Tamimi’s capture. But Jordan has thus far yet to extradite her. Jordan’s Interpol branch removed Tamimi from its most-wanted list in 2017 after the Jordanian Court of Cassations ruled that she would not be extradited because the Jordanian parliament never ratified the country’s 1995 extradition treaty with the United States.
Tamimi remains unrepentant for her actions and vocal in her justification of political violence. She continues to exploit media platforms to promote this skewed narrative, including via a talk show on a Hamas-affiliated network.
Jordan’s Court of Cassations is the country’s highest court, but it isn’t the final word on the matter. The court’s decision was a recognition that parliament had not ratified the extradition treaty and thus Jordan was not obligated to extradite Tamimi. Nevertheless, King Abdullah can still choose to extradite Tamimi if he believes it is in the country’s national interest, even without a treaty. For now, the risk is low for King Abdullah to keep Tamimi in Jordan, but that could change if the United States were to threaten economic sanctions against Jordan.
And that threat could become very real thanks to a hidden measure in the U.S. Omnibus Spending Bill President Trump signed into law in December. The bill threatens financial aid for any country that ignores a U.S. extradition request of somebody indicted for a criminal offense that carries a life sentence. The charges against Tamimi carry the penalty of life in prison or death, which means the U.S. government could withhold Jordanian aid if Tamimi’s extradition is not carried out. The U.S. has provided billions in economic and humanitarian aid to Jordan, so it can be assumed that if pressed, King Abdullah would choose the United States over Tamimi.
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