It is still unclear what sparked the shootout that led to the deaths of three American soldiers at King Faisal Air Base in Jordan in November. What is clear, according to a recently released video of the incident, is that after the initial burst of gunfire, the remaining Americans were outgunned and stalked by a person set on killing them.
The Nov. 4 attack, carried out by Jordanian Air Force 1st Sgt. Maarik al-Tawayha, began as a group of Green Berets was returning from an exercise. The Army soldiers, highly trained in preparing local ground forces for combat, had been detailed to the Central Intelligence Agency and were teaching opposition forces from neighboring Syria how to use small arms and other light weapons.
As one of the United States’ staunchest allies in the Middle East, the Jordanians and their military installations are no strangers to U.S. forces coming and going from their gates.
Yet in the hours and initial weeks after the attack, Jordanian officials painted a murky picture of what had happened. Immediately following the shootout, they indicated that the Americans had run the gate, failing to stop as instructed. When U.S. officials questioned that account, Jordanian authorities suggested there had been an accidental discharge in one of the Americans’ vehicles that led to the shootout.
Investigators were never able to determine a motive for the killings, and Tawayha insisted throughout his trial that he thought his base was under attack. Last week, he was sentenced by a Jordanian court to life in prison for the murders of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Mo.; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Tex.
The sole survivor of the gunfight, a Green Beret who requested that his name be withheld because of his past involvement with covert operations, described the sequence of events that occurred during the attack in an email, pointing out that what the video shows disproves any notion of misconduct by the Americans. The Green Beret first spoke with the New York Times.
The video begins innocuously enough. It is just after noon on Nov. 4 when the four-vehicle convoy enters the vehicle checkpoint. The Jordanian soldier casually pulls a set of spike strips away and opens the manually operated gate, letting the unmarked green vehicle through. The Americans are in Toyota Land Cruisers and wearing clothes typical of military trainers on a civilian range — khakis and short-sleeve shirts.
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