Ahlam Tamimi (Arabic: أحلام التميمي, born: January 1, 1980; or January 20, 1980; or October 20, 1980; or November 20, 1980) is a Jordanian national known for assisting in carrying out the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing. She was convicted by an Israeli military tribunal and received multiple life sentences, but was released as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. She hosts a television show about Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Her aliases include Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, Ahlam Arafat Mazin Al Tamimi, Halati and Khalti; the FBI and State Department have reported her name as Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi.
Tamimi was a journalism student at Birzeit University in the West Bank. Her brother Mohamed, speculates that her fluency in English, and the fact that she did not wear a headscarf, made her less suspicious to Israeli officials.
Tamimi placed an explosive device at a grocery store in Jerusalem in July 2001, which exploded, but did not cause damage.
Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing
Tamimi helped plan and participated in the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing, which caused 145 casualties, including 15 fatalities, half of them children. She was 20 years old at the time, and still in university. After driving and dropping off the suicide bomber at his target, she reported on the bombing on a Palestinian news channel.
On 9 August 2001, Tamimi escorted suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri (Arabic: عز الدين شهيل المصري) to the Sbarro restaurant. She used disguise techniques to deflect attention from herself and al-Masri, wearing a dress that made her appear more like a "Jewish tourist" than an Arab, and using language skills gained in her journalism studies. While al-Masri died in the attack as intended, Tamimi left the area before the bomb detonated.
She then had a second role reporting on the attack in the press, in her part-time journalism job.
Public and personal reaction
In an interview which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on 12 July 2012 (as translated by MEMRI), Tamimi described the reaction of other Palestinians immediately after the bombing:
Afterwards, when I took the bus, the Palestinians around Damascus Gate [in Jerusalem] were all smiling. You could sense that everybody was happy. When I got on the bus, nobody knew that it was me who had led [the suicide bomber to the target]... I was feeling quite strange, because I had left [the bomber] 'Izz Al-Din behind, but inside the bus, they were all congratulating one another. They didn't even know one another, yet they were exchanging greetings...While I was sitting on the bus, the driver turned on the radio. But first, let me tell you about the gradual rise in the number of casualties. While I was on the bus and everybody was congratulating one another...
After hearing an initial report that "three people were killed" in the bombing, Tamimi stated:
I admit that I was a bit disappointed, because I had hoped for a larger toll. Yet when they said "three dead," I said: 'Allah be praised'...Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn't. Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.
Frimet Roth, the mother of one of Tamimi's murder victims, has criticized her release. She said when Tamimi was released along with hundreds of other convicted murderers in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, it felt as if her daughter was murdered all over again.
Lack of remorse
In subsequent interviews, Tamimi commented that she was not sorry for what she had done, and does not recognize Israel’s existence. "Despite the fact that I'm sentenced to 16 life sentences, I know that we will become free from Israeli occupation and then I will also be free from the prison," she said. Reportedly, when she first learned from a journalist who was interviewing her in jail that she had murdered eight children, not just three as she had initially believed, she just smiled broadly and continued with the interview.
Following her release from prison (see below), Tamimi gave an interview with the Jordanian Ammon News website, which was later posted on YouTube (as translated by MEMRI):
I do not regret what happened. Absolutely not. This is the path. I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack on the Sbarro pizzeria]. This was made possible by Allah. Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again today, and in the same manner.
She has also expressed satisfaction at the sizable death count, including those of the children, and her earlier disappointment when initial reports stated lower counts.
Life sentences and release
She was imprisoned for her role in the events, but was released in an October 2011 prisoner swap for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. At a military tribunal sitting at the Ofer military camp, Tamimi had received 16 consecutive life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison.
During her time in the prison, she married her cousin Nizar, who was being held in a separate prison. She moved to Jordan immediately after her release. Her arrival there was attended by hundreds of people, including relatives, many Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and trade unionists and citizens. She later met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Cairo, Egypt.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Tamini claimed that Israel had asked the "Russian mafia" to kill her and other Palestinian prisoners who were released in the Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange agreement, although she did not provide further details.
American Legal Proceedings
On July 15, 2013, the U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges in the District of Columbia against Tamimi for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death. The criminal complaint was unsealed on March 14, 2017. Jordanian courts ruled that Tamimi could not be extradited, as the Jordanian parliament has not ratified the extradition treaty with the United States yet.
There is a $5 Million reward for her capture.
Tamimi is the first Islamic terrorist from the Arab League to face criminal prosecution in the United States and marks a stark about-face from American foreign policy under previous administrations.
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