Military finds 3 US soldiers killed in Jordan acted properly, showed 'heroism'

Story highlights

  • Jordanian media initially blamed the soldiers for failing to adhere to procedures
  • Family of the 3 murdered service members criticized the Jordanian statements

Washington (CNN)The US military has found that three Green Beret soldiers shot in Jordan followed proper procedures, despite initial Jordanian media claims to the contrary.

A US Special Operations Command investigation into the November shooting of three US Army Special Forces soldiers at King Faisal Air Base in Jordan determined that the US forces "demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism" after coming under fire from a Jordanian guard, according to a redacted copy of the report.
"There is no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian Base entrance procedures," the report said.
    Jordanian state media initially blamed the incident on the soldiers' failure to adhere to proper procedures at the base's entrance, though US officials disputed that at the time.  
    Investigators said they were able to obtain video surveillance footage of the event, allowing for a very detailed examination of events.
    Army Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen was mortally wounded when the Jordanian guard, Cpl. Ma'arik Al-Tawayha, opened fire on their vehicle while it was stopped at the gate.
    The report details the intense firefight between the Jordanian guard, who wore body armor and carried an M-16 rifle, and the US soldiers, equipped only with side arms.
    The Green Berets were part of a training mission in Jordan, and because of the lack of perceived threat and that country's status as an American ally, the US service members were travelling in unarmored vehicles, not wearing body armor and only carrying side arms. The report recommends that US forces in the future use armored vehicles and carry at least one rifle with them.
    "After unsuccessfully trying to communicate to the shooter that they posed no threat, the soldiers returned fire," the report said.
    It was during that gun battle that the third Green Beret, Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, was struck by two rounds, suffering a mortal wound after firing his pistol at Al-Tawayha.
    Moriarty's actions firing at and distracting his attacker allowed a fourth Green Beret to come around the other side of a cement barrier, hitting the guard with pistol fire until Al-Tawayha "fell to the ground and was no longer a threat."
    The investigation found that the soldiers "demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism in fighting and remaining with teammates while engaging a force that was better equipped and armed."
    The report added that "autopsy results show that no amount of medical care could have saved the three soldiers due to the nature of their wounds."
    Speaking at an event in Washington DC earlier Tuesday, family members of the three murdered service members criticized the government of Jordan for initially saying that the US Green Berets were responsible.
    "We are told that Jordan is an important ally in the war on terror, a war which I support, but I encourage our president and our administration to take a hard look at our relationship with an ally who would so callously disrespect the sacrifice made by our boys," Brian McEnroe, the father of one of the slain soldiers, said.
    "US Special Operations Command extends its deepest condolences to the families, friends and teammates of the three Special Forces Soldiers killed in this tragic incident," the command said in a press release accompanying the report.
    While the report said that "all indications are that Corporal Al-Tawayha acted alone," and there was no evidence of radicalization, the statement added that the "the command is fully committed to working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation as they complete their separate, criminal investigation into the shooting."
    "We completely understand the grieving process the fathers of the Green Berets must be going through at this time," Dana Zureikat Daoud, a Jordanian Embassy spokeswoman, told CNN.
    But she declined to comment on the specifics of the incident before the criminal investigation is completed.
    "I am sure you can understand that there is an ongoing investigation," she said, "therefore, we are currently waiting for the US result of the investigation."