Family of 15-year-old terrorist attack victim asks Biden to bring justice for daughter
Malki Roth, a talented young musician with a sunny and emphatic personality, was just 15 years old when she was killed by a terrorist attack while lunching at a crowded pizzeria with her teenaged friend.
The Aug. 9, 2001 bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria restaurant in downtown Jerusalem wounded 122 people and killed 15 people in total, two of which were U.S. citizens including Roth.
For Roth’s family, the two decades of grief of losing their middle child is exacerbated by the fact that the terrorist behind the suicide bombing plot, Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, walks free and proud in Jordan despite being on America’s FBI’s most wanted terrorist list with a $5 million bounty.
Now, the Roth family is putting their hope in President Biden that he may help deliver justice for Malki after all these years.
Biden will welcome Jordan’s King Abdullah II to the White House on Monday for an official visit and the Roths are pleading with the Biden administration to make one ask of the king: Stop protecting Al-Tamimi in Jordan and extradite her to the United States to face criminal prosecution for their daughter’s murder.
“What we want is to see her in chains … put on a plane to cross the Atlantic, and then marched into a Washington federal court,” Arnold Roth, Malki’s father, told Fox News of Al-Tamimi. “We dream of that.
“Will it bring back our daughter? Obviously not. Will it make the pain go away? Of course not. But it will be something that has meaning.”
The Roth family resides in Jerusalem, where Malki was also living and thriving as a flutist in the Jerusalem Municipal Youth Orchestra before she was killed in the attack targeting Jews, her family says. Malki was born in Australia but had U.S. citizenship since her mother, Frimet, is American and grew up in New York.
The Roths have fought for years to see Al-Tamimi face consequences and remain baffled by the inaction of the U.S. government to successfully pressure Jordan to honor a 1995 extradition treaty with the United States. The stalemate is puzzling, the Roths argue, given the leverage the U.S. has over its Middle East ally with billions in foreign aid America has given Jordan in the years since Malki’s death.
“We want President Biden to do what President Trump and President Obama did not do and that is to explain in very simple English to King Abdullah II, who speaks excellent English, this woman must be handed over in satisfaction of Jordan’s treaty obligation to its most important ally in the entire world,” Arnold Roth, a retired lawyer, told Fox News in an interview.
Last month, the Roths wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to raise with the king “Jordan’s harboring of FBI Most Wanted Terrorist.”
The Roths never heard anything back, which they said was typical of the response from the previous Trump administration too.
A state department spokesperson told Fox News Friday the department won’t preview any diplomatic discussions with the Jordan delegation and won’t discuss private correspondence with the Roths. But the State Department said it’s committed to bringing Al-Tamimi to the United States for prosecution.
“Al-Tamimi is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for her role in a 2001 Hamas terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” the State Department told Fox News. “The United States continues to seek her extradition and will continue to work to ensure she faces justice.”
In 2013, Al-Tamimi was formally charged in the United States with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against Americans outside the U.S., resulting in death. The charge, which carries up to a lifetime in prison or death upon conviction, was unsealed in 2017 and made public by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors said Al-Tamimi carried out the terrorist attack on behalf of Hamas. On Aug. 9, 2001, she drove a suicide bomber who carried a guitar case with explosives to a busy area of downtown Jerusalem and gave instructions to detonate the device in a crowded area, the affidavit said. Seven of the 15 who were killed in the Sbarro attack were children.
Al-Tamimi escaped justice before. She pleaded guilty in an Israeli court in 2003 to multiple counts of murder arising from the Sbarro attack and was sentenced to 16 life terms of incarceration. But after eight years, she was released as a free woman in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas – a move that the Roths vigorously opposed and were unsuccessful in trying to persuade then-Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to exclude Al-Tamimi from the swap.
To make matters worse, Al-Tamimi has gloated about the attack, saying she would “do it again” because “I dedicated myself to Jihad for the sake of Allah.” In a 2017 interview, Al-Tamimi praised Jordan’s rejection of the extradition request to the U.S. and doubled down on her anti-Israel extremism.
“As long as the Zionists remain on our land, the jihad must continue,” she said.
“This woman is the embodiment of terrorism,” Arnold Roth told Fox News. “She is calling for more terror.”
It’s brutal for the Roths to see Al-Tamimi, who is now 40, hiding in plain sight. She has since hosted her own TV program from the city Ramallah and bolstered a heroic image that has garnered fan pages.
“When you think about this woman we’re talking about – this piece of dirt terrorist bomber, happy proud and a hero – not only a hero but protected by the King of Jordan, you can go crazy from the fury that it generates inside of you,” Arnold Roth said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether Biden will raise the extradition issue with the king on Monday. The Jordan embassy in Washington also did not reply to a request for comment on the status of Al-Tamimi.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the meeting with the king on Monday will “highlight the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan, a key security partner and ally of the United States.”
Biden and the king will discuss challenges facing the Middle East and “showcase Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region,” Psaki said.
As the Roths await justice, they’ve kept their daughter’s legacy alive through a foundation they started in honor of Malki, who was the middle of seven children. Her parents said Malki had a beautiful bond with their youngest daughter, Haya, who is severely disabled, which inspired her volunteer work with other children with special needs. The Keren Malki foundation is aimed at helping Israeli families care for their children with severe disabilities in their homes, rather than institutions.
“We don’t want anybody to forget you, Malki,” Arnold Roth said.