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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Jordanian soldier - Revenge
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: March 13, 1997
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1968
Victims profile: Seven Israeli schoolgirls
Method of murder: Shooting (M-16 rifle)
Location: Baqoura, Jordan
Status: Sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1998

In 1997 Jordanian soldier Ahmad Dakamseh shot to death seven Israeli schoolgirls on a field trip.

The soldier was sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal after he opened fire on a group of Israeli girls in Baqoura in the northern Jordan Valley, a small piece of land the kingdom retrieved from Israel under their 1994 peace treaty. Six other girls were wounded in the rampage.

On May 26, 1999, sources at the Jordan Bar Association said that Prime Minister Abdul Raouf Rawabdeh recently told the association's president that the "government may decide to free " the incarcerated rampager.


Opened fire with an automatic rifle on junior high school girls who were on a field trip to the "Island of Peace" in the Jordan River.

Other Jordanian troops at the site shouted "majnoun" (madman) at the soldier and eventually overpowered him.


Massacre atop 'Island of Peace'

Jordanian soldier kills 7 israeli schoolgirls

The Miami Herald

14 March 1997

At noon Thursday, 51 Israeli schoolgirls and teachers stood atop the "Island of Peace" here, looking eastward toward the Jordanian hills. Behind them, a Jordanian soldier scampered up a mound of dirt and fired with an automatic rifle, killing seven, wounding six.

In an instant, an annual field trip for a group of junior high girls turned into a bloody massacre. And a border hilltop that once symbolized peace between two neighbors became the latest flash point in a week of escalating tensions.


Gunman kills 7 israeli schoolgirls


14 March 1997

Grabbing a comrade's assault rifle, a Jordanian soldier fired on Israeli junior high school girls taking a field trip Thursday to a Jordan River island known as a symbol of Mideast peace. Seven girls were killed and six were wounded.

Still shooting, the gunman chased the screaming students down a grassy river embankment while his fellow soldiers yelled "Madman, madman" before overpowering him. He was in the custody of Jordanian security officials.


Family of Jordanian soldier cites psychological problems

The Boston Globe

15 March 1997

IBDIR, Jordan -- The Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli girls during a school trip had psychological problems but no history of violence and no ties to militant groups, his family said yesterday.

Mousa Daqamseh, 62, cradled a picture of his son, Corporal Ahmed Mousa Daqamseh, 28, and cried. "He was never violent," he said.


Jordanian's family says gunman was angry, unbalanced

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

16 March 1997

On the winding dirt paths of this farming village in northern Jordan, people would cross the street to avoid Ahmed Mousa Daqamseh.

Short and thin, with few distinguishing physical characteristics, he was known by everyone in the village as unbalanced: medicated, sleepy and angry. One man remembers him beginning a fist fight at a wedding because he didn't like the song being played.


Not-guilty plea in 7 girls' death

The Philadelphia Inquirer

28 May 1997

A Jordanian soldier charged with the premeditated murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls in a case that rattled the already tense Middle East peace process pleaded not guilty at his military trial yesterday.

Ahmed Daqamseh stood in a black cage as four charges including premeditated murder and military disobedience were read out in the courtroom at a military base a few miles south of Amman.


Jordanian in slayings known as 'sex man'

The soldier is standing trial in the killing of 7

The Philadelphia Inquirer

5 June 1997

A Jordanian soldier charged with killing seven Israeli schoolgirls was known as ``the sex man'' because he talked constantly about sex, fellow soldiers told a military hearing yesterday.

Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh, 26, faces execution if the tribunal convicts him in the March 13 attack. Seven other girls were injured during the school outing to Naharayim island on the Jordan River.


Soldier suicidal

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

17 June 1997

A Jordanian soldier accused of gunning down seven Israeli schoolgirls in March has a personality disorder and tried to commit suicide in 1989, a psychiatrist testified yesterday. Dr. Nabil Hmoud, a Jordanian army major, told a military hearing that Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh, 26, is mentally sound but suffers from a personality disorder that may lead him to harm himself or others. He did not say what the personality disorder was.


Bid to escape fails killer of 7 girls

The Boston Globe

22 June 1997

AMMAN, Jordan -- A Jordanian soldier who shot and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls this winter tried to escape from prison Thursday, a military prosecutor said. The prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Muhannad Hijazi, told a military hearing yesterday that Corporal Ahmed Daqamseh ``tried to flee from soldiers while in detention in a military office as he was on his way to the restroom.'' Daqamseh, 26, is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly killing seven Israeli schoolgirls and wounding seven others.


Jordanian gets life for killing 7 girls

20 July 1997

NAOUR, Jordan A military court convicted a Jordanian soldier Saturday of shooting and killing seven Israeli schoolgirls, pronouncing a sentence of life in prison while the gunman stood silently reading the Koran.

Outside the heavily guarded courtroom, weeping relatives of Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh denounced the five judges who presided over the case, which fueled anti-Israel feeling across Jordan.


Jordan soldier kills 7 israeli schoolgirls

Six students were wounded by the gunan, who fired from a guard tower

The shooting jolted the mideast, where peace talks have been contentious

A group of Israeli schoolgirls was standing on Peace Island yesterday, overlooking the Jordan River and fields of wild yellow flowers, when a Jordanian soldier opened fire with an assault rifle, killing seven students. Six other pupils were wounded as girls dove into bushes and screamed for help.

After seizing a comrade's M-16 rifle, the soldier fired from an observation tower, then descended and chased the screaming junior high girls down a hill, firing wildly. He was overpowered by other Jordanian soldiers, who shouted, "Madman! Madman!"

The shooting jolted a Middle East already in crisis over plans by Israel to build a Jewish settlement in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and a dispute over the amount of occupied territory to be turned over by Israel. The attack came two days after King Hussein of Jordan sent a stinging letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing Israel of seriously damaging peace talks with the Palestinians.

Hussein's letter warned Netanyahu that his "deliberate humiliation" of Arabs and "accumulating tragic actions" were leading to "an abyss of bloodshed and disaster, brought about by fear and despair."

Some Israeli officials suggested yesterday that the king's letter had somehow motivated the Jordanian soldier. It was not clear whether the shooting was politically motivated; a woman who said she was the soldier's mother told reporters in Jordan that he was mentally ill.

The soldier, identified as Lance Cpl. Ahmed Yousef Moussa, was in Jordanian custody late yesterday.

Hussein called the shootings a "vile crime." Speaking in Madrid before he cut short a state visit to Spain and postponed a Washington summit with President Clinton, Hussein said he "never thought it would break the way it did today" when he spoke of violence, "but I was fully within my responsibility to try to warn one and all that we had come too far."

The shooting also was "aimed at me, my children, the people of Jordan," Hussein said. The king later phoned Netanyahu, saying he wanted to visit the families of the slain children.

Middle East leaders - including Hussein, Netanyahu and Palestinian head Yasir Arafat - attempted to calm passions by saying that peace negotiations would move forward. Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, who visited the site of the shootings, called for peace, saying: "Violent words lead to physical violence."

Last night the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, home to the school attended by the girls, was a mixed scene of joy and funerals. About 43 girls survived the attack and were met at the Feirst School, where their parents hugged and kissed them. But only a few miles away, the dead girls were wrapped in white linens and buried throughout the night as grief-stricken parents and friends sobbed in one another's arms.

"This is a repulsive crime," said Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy. "These were innocent children, defenseless children . . . killed by a madman."

Levy suggested there was a connection to the shooting and King Hussein's harsh criticism of Israel earlier this week. "Recent declaration created a psychological atmosphere that could lead to such tragic acts," Levy told Jordan's prime minister, Abdul-Karim Kanariti.

Witnesses and wounded children recounted several minutes of horror that marred the sort of two-day class trip that all Israeli students look forward to toward the close of each school year.

The shootings occurred about 11:30 a.m., minutes after a busload of students had pulled up to the gate of Peace Island, a small strip of land in the Jordan River that historically had been disputed territory. Israel captured the area in the 1948 Mideast War, but returned it to Jordanian control under the 1994 peace accord.

The land, which is two hours north of Jerusalem and still farmed by an Israeli kibbutz, offers spectacular views of the fertile Jordan River valley and has become a popular tourist attraction. Witnesses said the eighth-grade class crossed through the checkpoint and followed a winding, dirt road up the hill. Most of the 50 or so girls - who were between 12 and 14 years of age - got off the bus and walked to the edge of the hill for a better view.

It was then, according to witnesses, that Moussa, a 26-year-old Jordanian army driver who patrolled the area, opened fire from a guard tower about 50 yards away.

"He was standing in the tower when he started shooting and then he came down and continued to shoot," said Rosa Himi, a teacher and chaperone. "We screamed to the kids to hide in the bushes and get down and he came within a few feet of us, still firing. Then he really became annoyed because he finished his first magazine [of bullets], but couldn't get the next magazine in."

At that moment, according to Jordanian officials, other soldiers wrestled Moussa to the ground. Bloody bodies dotted the hilltop, and several girls who were hiding in bushes used their cell phones and called their school in Beit Shemesh, screaming and crying.

"Some guy started to shoot on us," said Hila Ivry, 13, who lay in a bed at Poriya Hospital yesterday with a bullet wound to her leg. "All my friends ran and cried for their mothers. My teacher came to help me. She was hurt in the back."

"I saw him," Ivry continued as her twin sister, Keren, lay in an adjacent bed with a stomach wound. "He was with a long gun and he shot on us . . . They [other schoolgirls] ran into the trees and flowers. Many girls were hurt."

"The bullets dropped near me," said Yehudit Twito, 13, who wore a peace symbol necklace. "Then I saw more soldiers coming and I thought they were going to shoot us, but they helped us and stopped him when he couldn't change his magazine. We had gone through the gate. . . . They had checked our ID's. We thought it was safe. We didn't think anything would happen."

Deputy Education Minister Moshe Peled said his office is investigating whether the girls should have been allowed to visit such a site during high tensions between Arabs and Israelis. It is Israeli policy for adult escorts on such trips to be armed to protect children in case of conflict. Several students who were interviewed said the Jordanian guards at the gate to Peace Island confiscated at least one weapon from an escort.

Seven victims were taken to nearby Jordan Hospital, and of those, five were dead on arrival, according to Jordan's health minister, Dr. Aref Batayneh. The dead were draped in white shrouds and flown to Israel. At Poriya Hospital, just west of the Sea of Galilee, the wounded were treated while parents and teachers wept in the lobby.

Four teachers held one another and sobbed when they were told that their colleague, Yafa Shukman, was wounded in the barrage.

"She defended one of the children with her body," said Shoshi Cohen, who teaches Bible lessons at the Feirst School. She said two weeks ago another group of students visited the site with no problems. She added: "But today it's even dangerous to go to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem."

The shootings bore an eerie resemblance to the events of Jan. 1, when an off-duty Israeli soldier, Noam Friedman - later determined to be mentally disturbed - opened fire on shoppers in an Arab outdoor market in the West Bank town of Hebron. Five Palestinians were wounded before Friedman was overpowered by other Israeli soldiers.

Arab and Israeli government officials said yesterday it was unclear what effect the seven dead schoolgirls will have on an already stalled peace process.

President Clinton, whose administration has been trying to hold peace talks together, called the shooting "senseless." He said, "There's no reason to believe this was politically motivated."

Delivering an eulogy last night at the funeral of four of the girls, Netanyahu told mourners: "If anyone thinks the murder of little girls will bring this people to its knees . . . or that we will relinquish our birthright, holy land and eternal capital, he does not know the strength that exists in each person standing here around me today and in the entire nation."

While Arab and Israeli parties called for calm, there was also finger-pointing as both sides attempted to duck blame and gain the high ground in forthcoming negotiations. The relationship between Israelis and Palestinians has been severely strained by recent events, including Israel's proposal to build a settlement for 25,000 Jews at Har Homa and the size of the Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

At Naharayim, some Israeli witnesses said Jordanian soldiers did not act quickly enough to end the attack and that Jordanian border sentries refused for 40 minutes to permit Israeli ambulances to enter.

But senior Israeli commanders minimized the complaints, saying the Jordanians gave medical treatment to the victims and evacuated seven of the most critically wounded - five of whom died - to a hospital in nearby Shuneh. They said a Jordanian general in Amman gave permission for Israeli ambulances to cross the border, along with army troops to search for missing children in the bushes.


May 26, 1999 - Cpl. Ahmad Dakamseh - The Jordanian government is considering releasing a Jordanian soldier who shot to death seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997. Sources at the Jordan Bar Association said that Prime Minister Abdul Raouf Rawabdeh recently told the association's president that the "government may decide to free."


Jordan minister dubs Israel girls' killer 'hero'

By Ahmad Khatib - AFP

February 14, 2011

AMMAN Jordan's justice minister on Monday described a Jordanian soldier serving a life sentence for killing seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 as a "hero," drawing an expression of "revulsion" from Israel.

"I support the demonstrators' demand to free Ahmad Dakamseh. He's a hero. He does not deserve prison," Hussein Mujalli, who was named minister last week, told AFP after taking part in the sit-in held by trade unions.

"If a Jewish person killed Arabs, his country would have built a statue for him instead of imprisonment."

Mujalli, a former president of the Jordan Bar Association, was Dakamseh's lawyer.

"It is still my case and I will still defend him. It is a top priority for me," he said.

"Dakamseh needs a special pardon. Only the king can issue a special pardon," the state-run Petra news agency quoted Mujalli as saying.

The minister's comments drew a furious response from Israel, where tensions are already running high amid the turmoil in the Arab world that saw long-time Israeli peace partner Hosni Mubarak of Egypt quit office last week.

"Israel is shocked and recoils from these comments in revulsion," a foreign ministry statement said.

"This call is all the more serious as it came from the minister in charge of law and order. Israel has demanded clarifications from Jordan and has made it known very strongly that the murderer must serve the sentence handed down by the Jordanian court," the statement added.

Jordan is the only Arab nation apart from Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state.

In March 1997, Dakamseh fired an automatic weapon at a group of Israeli schoolgirls as they visited Baqura, a scenic peninsula on the Jordan River near the Israeli border, killing seven and wounding five as well as a teacher.

The attack came almost three years after Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty.

The motives of Dakamseh, who was 30 at the time and a married father of three, were never clear.

The then king Hussein cut short a visit to Europe and rushed home to condemn the attack. He later travelled to Israel to offer his condolences to the families of the murdered schoolgirls.

Jordan also paid compensation.

Maisara Malas, who heads a trade unions' committee to support and defend the soldier, told AFP he handed a letter to Mujalli, demanding Dakamseh's release.

"We cannot imagine that a great fighter like Dakamseh is in jail instead of reaping the rewards of his achievement," the letter said.

Jordan's powerful Islamist movement and the country's 14 trade unions, which have more than 200,000 members, have repeatedly called for Dakamseh's release.


Jordanian soldier Ahmad Musa Mustafa Dakamseh is seen during his hearing at an Amman military court in 1997.



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