Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi

Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi is one of the FBI’s most wanted female terrorists. She resides in Jordan where she fights against extradition to the United States for coordinating and directly aiding the August 9, 2001, Hamas suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 people, including two Americans.Ben Lynfield, “Jordan turns down US extradition request for Sbarro terrorist,” Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jordan-turns-down-US-extradition-request-for-Sbarro-terrorist-484740. Tamimi was the first female member of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.“Ahlam Mazen At-Tamimi,” Ezzedeen AL-Qassam Brigades - Information Office, accessed January 30, 2020, https://www.qassam.ps/prisoner-96-Ahlam_Mazen_At_Tamimi.html.

Tamimi was living in Nabi Salah, north of Ramallah, in the West Bank when the Palestinian uprising against Israel, the Second Intifada, began in 2000. Tamimi was attending Bir Zeit University and working part time as a journalist for Istiklal Television. Tamimi reached out to members of the Qassam Brigades and joined the organization in June 2001. On July 30, Tamimi placed a beer can containing an explosive device on the shelf of a supermarket in Jerusalem. The explosive caused damage but no injuries.“Ahlam Mazen At-Tamimi,” Ezzedeen AL-Qassam Brigades - Information Office, accessed January 30, 2020, https://www.qassam.ps/prisoner-96-Ahlam_Mazen_At_Tamimi.html; “Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant,” U.S. Department of Justice, July 15, 2013, 2. Tamimi then helped Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri scout targets in Jerusalem for a Hamas bombing. On August 9, Tamimi drove Masri from the West Bank to the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem where he detonated explosives hidden in a guitar case, killing 15 people and wounding 130. Tamimi later said in a television interview that she chose Sbarro because of the large number of customers.Ben Lynfield, “Jordan turns down US extradition request for Sbarro terrorist,” Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jordan-turns-down-US-extradition-request-for-Sbarro-terrorist-484740; Frimet Roth, “Remembering the Sbarro Bombing Five Years On,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), August 11, 2006, https://www.haaretz.com/1.4861207.

Israeli authorities arrested Tamimi in September 2001 for aiding Masri. On June 22, 2003, Tamimi pleaded guilty in an Israeli court to multiple counts of murder.“Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant,” U.S. Department of Justice, July 15, 2013, 3. The court sentenced her to 16 life sentences on October 23, 2003.“Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 14, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/individual-charged-connection-2001-terrorist-attack-jerusalem-resulted-death-americans; “Militant gets 16 life terms for Sbarro bombing,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), October 24, 2003, https://www.haaretz.com/1.4742868. Tamimi’s family told Israeli media that they were unaware of Tamimi’s militant activities before her arrest.Nida Tuma, “Sbarro bomber’s family hopes she will lead quiet life,” Jerusalem Post, October 17, 2011, https://www.jpost.com/National-News/Sbarro-bombers-family-hopes-she-will-lead-quiet-life; “Wedding on Hold: Palestine, Politics and Prison,” Al Jazeera, May 1, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2019/04/wedding-hold-palestine-politics-prison-190428110739199.html.

Tamimi was sent to Israel’s Hasharon Prison. In a March 2006 statement to Israel’s Ynet news website, Tamimi refused to recognize Israel’s existence and maintained she had no remorse for her actions.Raanan Ben-Zur, “Sbarro terrorist ‘not sorry,’” Ynetnews, March 27, 2006, https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3232591,00.html. While in prison, the Palestinian Authority (PA) paid more than $51,000 in benefits to Tamimi, according to Palestinian Media Watch. Masri’s family also received $53,689 in benefits from the PA.“Report: Terrorists behind Jerusalem pizza bombing received more than $910K,” Jewish News Syndicate, August 8, 2019, https://www.jns.org/report-terrorists-behind-jerusalem-pizza-bombing-received-more-than-910k/.

While in prison, Tamimi got engaged to her second-cousin Nizar Tamimi, who was serving a life sentence in the same prison for killing an Israeli settler in the West Bank.Nida Tuma, “Sbarro bomber’s family hopes she will lead quiet life,” Jerusalem Post, October 17, 2011, https://www.jpost.com/National-News/Sbarro-bombers-family-hopes-she-will-lead-quiet-life; “Wedding on Hold: Palestine, Politics and Prison,” Al Jazeera, May 1, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2019/04/wedding-hold-palestine-politics-prison-190428110739199.html. Tamimi was released on October 18, 2011, as part of a prisoner swap agreement between Israel and Hamas for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Tamimi was part of the first wave of the 1,026 prisoners released for Shalit’s freedom. Tamimi was deported to Jordan after her release and went to live with her family there.“Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 14, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/individual-charged-connection-2001-terrorist-attack-jerusalem-resulted-death-americans; Avi Issacharoff and Aimee Amiga, “Prisoners Deported Under Shalit Deal Arrive in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Qatar,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), October 19, 2011, https://www.haaretz.com/1.5201410. Others freed in the swap include Walid Anajas, who was convicted for his involvement in the 2002 bombing of Jerusalem’s Moment Cafe that killed 12, and Nasser Yataima, who planned the 2002 Passover seder bombing of the Park Hotel in Netanya that killed 30.Uri Friedman, “The Most Notorious Names in the Shalit Prison Swap,” Foreign Policy, October 20, 2011, https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/20/the-most-notorious-names-in-the-shalit-prison-swap/. Nizar Tamimi was also released during the prisoner exchange and the two were later married.“Wedding on Hold: Palestine, Politics and Prison,” Al Jazeera, May 1, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2019/04/wedding-hold-palestine-politics-prison-190428110739199.html.

In Jordan, Tamimi resumed her work as a journalist. From 2012 to 2016, she hosted a talk show on the Hamas-affiliated Quds TV network about Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Tamimi also claimed that Israel’s Mossad clandestine service intended to assassinate her and others freed in the Shalit deal.Khaled Abu Toameh, “Female terrorist hosts talk show on Hamas TV,” Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2012, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Female-terrorist-hosts-talk-show-on-Hamas-TV; Khaled Abu Toameh, “‘Sbarro terrorist: Israel hired mafia to kill me,’” Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2012, https://www.jpost.com/National-News/Sbarro-terrorist-Israel-hired-mafia-to-kill-me. Tamimi has expressed no remorse for her actions after the attack. She recalled in interviews her sense of joy in hearing about the rising number of casualties and said she would do it again.“Released Hamas Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi on Palestinian Public’s Delight at Suicide Bombings,” MEMRI, July 12, 2012, https://www.memri.org/tv/released-hamas-terrorist-ahlam-tamimi-palestinian-publics-delight-suicide-bombings; Khaled Abu Toameh, “Female terrorist hosts talk show on Hamas TV,” Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2012, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Female-terrorist-hosts-talk-show-on-Hamas-TV.

The 15 victims of the Sbarro bombing included U.S. citizens Judith Greenbaum and Malki Roth. Four U.S. citizens were among the wounded.Spencer S. Hsu, “U. S. unseals charge against Jordanian woman in 2001 Jerusalem Sbarro bombing,” Washington Post, March 15, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/us-unseals-charge-against-jordanian-woman-in-2001-jerusalem-sbarro-bombing/2017/03/14/6b5a51f8-08f9-11e7-b77c-0047d15a24e0_story.html. The United States has sought to extradite Tamimi for her role in the murder of U.S. citizens, but the Jordanian government has thus far refused requests for her extradition. In 2012, more than 50 members of Congress joined with relatives of terrorism victims and pro-Israel groups to call on the Justice Department to prosecute Tamimi and others.Spencer S. Hsu, “U. S. unseals charge against Jordanian woman in 2001 Jerusalem Sbarro bombing,” Washington Post, March 15, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/us-unseals-charge-against-jordanian-woman-in-2001-jerusalem-sbarro-bombing/2017/03/14/6b5a51f8-08f9-11e7-b77c-0047d15a24e0_story.html. On July 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice filed sealed criminal charges in the District of Columbia against Tamimi for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the United States, resulting in death.“Most Wanted: Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi,” FBI, accessed January 22, 2020, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/ahlam-ahmad-al-tamimi. It was the first time the United States had charged a member of Hamas with crimes resulting in the death of Americans.Teresa Welsh, “DOJ charges Hamas member for 2001 Jerusalem attack that killed Americans,” Miami Herald, March 14, 2017, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article138527608.html. The Jordanian branch of Interpol arrested Tamimi in September 2016. She spent one night in prison before posting bail. She then began a legal fight against the U.S. extradition request.Ali Younes, “Ahlam al-Tamimi: ‘We only wanted freedom,’” Al Jazeera, March 23, 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/ahlam-al-tamimi-wanted-freedom-170322100407282.html.

The Justice Department unsealed the indictment and an arrest warrant on March 14, 2017.“Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 14, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/individual-charged-connection-2001-terrorist-attack-jerusalem-resulted-death-americans. The U.S Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program also offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Tamimi’s arrest.“Most Wanted: Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi,” FBI, accessed January 22, 2020, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/ahlam-ahmad-al-tamimi. On March 20, 2017, the Jordanian Court of Cassation ruled that the Jordanian parliament never ratified the country’s 1995 extradition treaty with the United States and blocked Tamimi’s extradition.Ben Lynfield, “Jordan turns down US extradition request for Sbarro terrorist,” Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Jordan-turns-down-US-extradition-request-for-Sbarro-terrorist-484740. As a result, Jordan’s Interpol branch removed Tamimi from its wanted list.Ali Younes, “Ahlam al-Tamimi: ‘We only wanted freedom,’” Al Jazeera, March 23, 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/ahlam-al-tamimi-wanted-freedom-170322100407282.html.

The families of U.S. victims Greenbaum and Roth accused the U.S. government in 2018 of failing to maximize pressure on Jordan for Tamimi’s extradition.Rafael Medoff, “Despite reward for fugitive Palestinian terrorist, U.S. and Jordan remain slow to act,” Jewish News Syndicate, February 8, 2018, https://www.jns.org/despite-reward-for-fugitive-palestinian-terrorist-u-s-and-jordan-remain-slow-to-act/. In August 2019, U.S. Representatives Jerry Nadler and Doug Collins, respectively the Democratic chair and Republican ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting an update on efforts to extradite Tamimi.Amir Tibon, “Lawmakers Urge Trump to Push Jordan to Extradite Palestinian Terrorist,” Haaretz (Tel Aviv), August 29, 2019, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-top-congressmen-call-on-trump-to-push-for-the-extradition-of-ahlam-al-tamimi-1.7765784. In November 2019, the State Department issued a report declaring the validity of the U.S. extradition treaty with Jordan.“US rejects Jordan’s opposition to deport wanted terrorist,” Jewish News Syndicate, December 7, 2019, https://www.jns.org/us-rejects-jordans-opposition-to-deport-wanted-terrorist/. The following month, President Donald Trump signed the Omnibus Spending Bill, which threatens to sever financial aid to any country that ignores a U.S. extradition request of somebody indicted for a criminal offense that carries a life sentence.Sarah N. Stern, “A long-awaited holiday gift for victims of terror,” Jewish News Syndicate, December 27, 2019, https://www.jns.org/opinion/a-long-awaited-holiday-gift-for-victims-of-terror/.

Tamimi is still subject to arrest if she travels outside of Jordan. After the United States unsealed its indictment against her, Tamimi told Al Jazeera she was “shocked” that the government was pursuing her after so many years “for no obvious reasons.”Ali Younes, “Ahlam al-Tamimi: ‘We only wanted freedom,’” Al Jazeera, March 23, 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/ahlam-al-tamimi-wanted-freedom-170322100407282.html. Tamimi blamed U.S. pro-Israel groups for pressuring the U.S. government to pursue her.Ali Younes, “Ahlam al-Tamimi: ‘We only wanted freedom,’” Al Jazeera, March 23, 2017, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/ahlam-al-tamimi-wanted-freedom-170322100407282.html. In a March 2019 interview with Al Jazeera, Tamimi said Jordan is protecting her. Tamimi also questioned why she is considered a terrorist when she is “part of a resistance movement that strives for liberation.”“Released Palestinian Terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, Who is on FBI Most Wanted List: Being in Jordan Gives Me Strength Because No Extradition Agreement with U.S.,” MEMRI, March 28, 2019, https://www.memri.org/tv/sbarro-pizzeria-terrorist-hamas-ahlam-tamimi-fbi-most-wanted-jordan-no-extradition-agreement-thankful.

On April 30, 2020, seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a joint letter to Jordan’s ambassador to the United States, Dina Kawar, calling for Tamimi’s extradition. The representatives noted that Jordan had extradited fugitives to the United States in the past. They drew attention to the passage of sanctions legislation in December 2019 that would punish counties with diplomatic relations that refuse legitimate extradition requests. Signatories to the letter included U.S. Representatives W. Gregory Steube, Paul A. Gosar, Doug Lamborn, Scott Perry, Ted S. Yoho, Brian Mast, and Louis Gohmert.David Horowitz, “Failed by Israel, Malki Roth’s parents hope US can extradite her gloating killer,” Times of Israel, May 5, 2020, https://www.timesofisrael.com/failed-by-israel-malki-roths-parents-hope-us-can-extradite-her-gloating-killer/; W. Gregory Steube, et al, Letter to Ambassador Dina Kawar, April 30, 2020, https://www.counterextremism.com/sites/default/files/House%20Letter_Tamimi_043020.pdf.

 
United States

The FBI added Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi to its Most Wanted Terrorists list on March 14, 2017.“Individual Charged in Connection With 2001 Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem That Resulted in Death of Americans,” U.S. Department of Justice, March 14, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/individual-charged-connection-2001-terrorist-attack-jerusalem-resulted-death-americans.

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