U.S. Presses Charges Against Sbarro Attack Accomplice

Ahlam al-Tamimi, who drove the suicide bomber who carried out the lethal 2001 attack into Jerusalem, is wanted by American authorities for 'conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals.'

Eyal Warshavsky

The United States Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it is pressing criminal charges against Ahlam al-Tamimi, a Jordanian citizen who was involved in a terror attack in Jerusalem in 2001.

Tamimi assisted a group of Hamas terrorists who carried out an attack on a Jerusalem pizza restaurant in August of 2001 that led to the deaths of 15 people, among them two American citizens.

Tamimi was arrested by Israeli authorities, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to multiple life sentences. In 2011, however, she was released from prison and sent to Jordan as part of the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas that led to the release of soldier Gilad Shalit. Now, the United States wants to put her on trial for allegedly "conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals." According to a statement by the Department of Justice, Tamimi has also been placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

Her role in the terror attack included driving the suicide bomber into Jerusalem. Tamimi was working as a producer for a West Bank television station at the time. "Al-Tamimi is an unrepentant terrorist who admitted to her role in a deadly terrorist bombing that injured and killed numerous innocent victims," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord.

She added that two Americans were killed and four were wounded in the attack that Tamimi helped carry out 16 years ago, saying, "the charges unsealed today serve as a reminder that when terrorists target Americans anywhere in the world, we will never forget – and we will continue to seek to ensure that they are held accountable."

The DOJ noted that while Jordanian courts have ruled that Jordanian citizens cannot be extradited, the United States will "continue to work with its foreign partners to obtain custody of Al-Tamimi so she can be held accountable for her role in the terrorist bombing." Jordan is an important ally of the United States in the Middle East, and Jordanian King Abdullah was the first Middle Eastern leader to personally meet with President Donald Trump after his inauguration in January.

If Tamimi will indeed be handed over to U.S. authorities and then found guilty, she could face the death penalty or a life sentence without parole. The DOJ said in its statement on Tuesday that "the case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section."

Jordanian authorities and Tamimi herself have not responded to the announcement yet.