World

Jordan soldier faces murder charges in deaths of 3 US troops

A Jordanian soldier faces murder charges in the shooting deaths of three U.S. military trainers whose convoy came under fire at a Jordanian air base last year, a government official said Tuesday.

The Jordanian soldier will be tried by a military court, with proceedings to begin Wednesday, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.

The decision was welcomed by parents of the U.S. Army Green Berets, after Jordan initially claimed the Americans triggered the Nov. 4 shooting by disobeying orders of Jordanian troops at the gate of the al-Jafr air base in southern Jordan.

"I believe it is a good first step toward justice," said Chuck Lewellen, of Kirksville, Missouri, whose son, 27-year-old Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, was among those killed.

The other two slain Americans were 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe of Tucson, Arizona, and 27-year-old Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty of Kerrville, Texas.

Lewellen and Moriarty's father, James, said they were not told of the start of legal proceedings in Jordan. They said they were informed by the FBI last week that murder charges were being filed.

Moriarty, a 70-year--old lawyer, said he was "shocked that Jordan has not bothered to tell anybody that they were going to do this trial because I wanted to be there in person."

The Jordanian government official said that the trial would be closed to the public and that he did not want to engage in an exchange with the bereaved families through the media.

Moriarty has sharply criticized Jordan's handling of the aftermath of the shooting, arguing a surveillance video of the incident left no doubt about what happened.

"The Jordanians have the video and they have had it since the time of the shooting," he said in a phone interview.

Moriarty said he has repeatedly watched the surveillance video at an FBI office and requested, so far unsuccessfully, that it be released to the public.

He said that on Nov. 4, his son and three other U.S. trainers were approaching the gate of the air base after finishing a training session at a shooting range.

Moriarty said a Jordanian soldier at the gate opened fire, killing McEnroe and Lewellen who were in the same vehicle. He said his son and a surviving U.S. soldier, who were in cars No. 2 and 3 got out, took cover and began returning fire.

Moriarty said they both called out to the soldier in English and Arabic that they were friendly forces, but that he kept shooting, killing his son before being wounded by the surviving U.S. soldier.

Moriarty said he received a letter from Jordan's King Abdullah II in April.

"It is our conclusion, having viewed all the reports, that your son did nothing to instigate this attack and had complied with established procedures at the base," the king wrote in the letter shown to The Associated Press.

"These considerations make the incident at al-Jafr Air Base on November 4th all the more disturbing," wrote the monarch.