Jordan releases soldier who killed 7 Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 massacre
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Jordan releases soldier who killed 7 Israeli schoolgirls in 1997 massacre

Ahmed Daqamseh, who served 20 years in prison, received at family home in northern town of Irbid with celebration and song

Ahmed Daqamseh on trial in Jordan in 1997. (YouTube screenshot)
Ahmed Daqamseh on trial in Jordan in 1997. (YouTube screenshot)

AMMAN, Jordan — A Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls during a class trip to his country was released Sunday, after serving 20 years in prison, an official said.

Ahmed Daqamseh had killed the eighth graders in a 1997 shooting rampage at the scenic “Island of Peace” border post where he was stationed. Seven other girls were wounded at the time.

The late-night release comes a day before the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

The release could raise tensions between Israel and Jordan. In 2011, Israel summoned Jordan’s ambassador to express anger after the kingdom’s justice minister at the time called for Daqamseh’s release.

This file photo taken on June 25, 1997 shows Jordanian soldier Ahmad Musa Mustafa Dakamseh, waving to his family from behind  bars, during his hearing at a Amman military court.  Dakamseh was released on March 12, 2017 from the Bab al-Hawa prison in Irbid, 90 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Amman after serving 20 years in prison, a relative told AFP. In March 1997, he fired an automatic weapon at Israeli schoolgirls on a trip to the Jordan-Israel border, killing seven of them and wounding others and a teacher. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment. (AFP PHOTO / JAMAL NASRALLAH)
This file photo taken on June 25, 1997 shows Jordanian soldier Ahmad Musa Mustafa Dakamseh, waving to his family from behind bars, during his hearing at a Amman military court. (AFP PHOTO / JAMAL NASRALLAH)

Daqamseh was received early Sunday at his family home in the northern Jordanian town of Irbid with celebrations, including music and singing around his home. Media outlets in the kingdom carried photos of the celebrations.

Naharayim memorial for the 7 Beit Shemesh girls slain in the area (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
Naharayim memorial for the 7 Beit Shemesh girls slain in the area (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

Daqamseh is considered a hero by many in the country. Israeli media reported early Sunday that Jordanian authorities’ decision to release him in the middle of the night, at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, was intended to prevent larger celebrations from being held for him in his hometown.

Amer Sartawi, a spokesman for Jordan’s Public Security Directorate, said Daqamseh was freed early Sunday.

A military court deemed him mentally unstable at the time and sentenced him to life in prison, which in Jordan typically means 25 years. Jordanian lawmakers had lobbied for his early release.

After the shooting, Jordan’s King Hussein — the late father of the current king, Abdullah II — rushed to Israel and paid condolence visits to the girls’ families, a gesture that touched many Israelis at the time.

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

In this Sunday, March 16, 1997 file photo, King Hussein of Jordan shakes the hand of members of the Badayev family in Beit Shemesh who were in mourning after their daughter Shiri was killed by a Jordanian soldier. King Hussein came to Israel to offer condolences to the seven families who lost their daughters in an attack on a class trip. The Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in a 1997 shooting rampage was released Sunday, March 12, 2017, after serving 20 years in prison. (AP PHOTO/GPO/HO, File)
In this Sunday, March 16, 1997 file photo, King Hussein of Jordan shakes the hand of members of the Badayev family in Beit Shemesh who were in mourning after their daughter Shiri was killed by a Jordanian soldier. King Hussein came to Israel to offer condolences to the seven families who lost their daughters in an attack on a class trip. The Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in a 1997 shooting rampage was released Sunday, March 12, 2017, after serving 20 years in prison. (AP PHOTO/GPO/HO, File)
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