The FBI has placed a Jordanian woman who assisted in the 2001 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant on its “Most Wanted Terrorist” list.
The US case against Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi was filed under seal in 2013 but announced publicly by the justice department on Tuesday.
The charge against al-Tamimi stems from an August 9, 2001, bombing at a Sbarro pizzeria that, in addition to killing 15 people, also injured some 120 others. Two of those killed were US nationals.
After her capture, Tamimi, now in her mid-30s, pleaded guilty at trial in Israel and was sentenced in 2003 to 16 life prison terms.
The criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday charged al-Tamimi, who worked as a journalist at a television station in the occupied West Bank, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the US against US nationals.
Federal prosecutors accuse her of having agreed in the summer of 2001 to carry out attacks on behalf of the military wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement and having travelled with the restaurant bomber to Jerusalem.
Prosecutors say that she instructed the bomber to detonate the explosive device, which was hidden in a guitar, in the area.
‘Will never forget’
Al-Tamimi was freed from prison in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.
She was returned to Jordan, and though the justice department says it is working to bring her into custody, Jordanian courts have said their constitution does not allow for the extradition of Jordanian nationals.
“This is the first time the US government has attempted to achieve the extradition and prosecute someone involved in a Palestinian attack against the Israeli occupation,” Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, DC, said. “There have been civil wrongful death suits filed by relatives of Americans killed but this is the first time the government is taking such action.”
Mary McCord, the acting head of the justice department’s national security division, called al-Tamimi an “unrepentant terrorist”.
“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,” McCord said.
Al-Tamimi faces a possible execution or life in prison if she is captured, tried and convicted in the US.