AQABA, Jordan – A Jordanian military court on Thursday convicted three Syrians and one Iraqi and sentenced them to death for firing rockets at two U.S. warships in Aqaba Bay in August 2005.
The rockets missed, but the attempt was the most serious attack on the U.S. Navy since the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
Fired from a warehouse on the outskirts of Aqaba, one rocket landed outside a Jordanian military hospital on the far side of the bay and killed a Jordanian soldier. Another fell across the border in Israel. It did not explode but slightly wounded an Israeli taxi driver.
One of the Syrians, Mohammed Hassan Abdullah al-Sihly, is in police custody. His sons, Abdul-Rahman al-Sihly and Abdullah al-Sihly, and the Iraqi, Amar al-Samera'i, remain at large and were tried in absentia.
The court acquitted Mohammed al-Sihly's three other sons and convicted and sentenced five others to various jail terms ranging from two to 10 years.
It was not immediately known if the defendants would appeal their verdicts.
During the 10-minute hearing, security was intensified and a helicopter hovered over the court's grounds. Police inside the court were armed with machine guns.
Prosecutors also said in their indictment that the defendants also planned to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Amman, and they were providing funds to the insurgents in Iraq.
Aqaba, 350 kilometers (210 miles) south of Amman, is a quiet resort that draws Western and Israeli tourists.
Aqaba's attack preceded the November 2005 Amman's triple hotel bombings which killed 60 people. One Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, who failed to detonate her explosive belt was arrested and convicted to death with six others, including a woman, who were tried in absentia. They believed to be in hiding in Iraq.
The late Al Qaeda in Iraq leader, Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had claimed responsibility for the Amman's hotels attacks. He also was tried as a fugitive, but the Jordanian military court dismissed his case after his death in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad in June.