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Jordan

Jordan releases soldier responsible for killing Israeli schoolgirls

Authorities have released a soldier who spent 20 years in prison for killing seven Israeli schoolgirls in 1997. A Jordanian court deemed him mentally unstable, giving him a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

Jordanian soldier Ahmed Daqamseh left prison early Sunday morning after serving 20 years in prison for a deadly shooting rampage that killed seven Israeli girls in 1997.

He opened fire on the class of Israeli eighth graders while they were on a class trip to the "Island of Peace" border post - wounding an additional seven girls. Rather than imposing the death penalty, a court in Jordan found him to be mentally unstable and sentenced him to life in prison.

Daqamseh arrived at his home in the northern Jordanian city of Irbid. Videos posted online showed him being welcomed by men who were singing and dancing.

There have been many calls in Jordan for Daqamseh to be released, including from the Islamist-led opposition which regards him as a hero. Israel did not immediately react to his release on Sunday.

Jordanien Ahmed Daqamseh (picture-alliance/dpa/Mohammed Abu Ghosh)

Daqamseh was regarded by some as a hero for shooting the Israeli girls while they were on a class trip

'This is the situation'

The father of Sivan Fatihi, one of the girls who had been killed in the attack, told Israel Radio on Sunday that he had been informed by the Israeli embassy in Jordan last week that Daqamseh's release was imminent.

"It is unfortunate, but this is the situation," Yisrael Fatihi said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Jordan's King Hussein - the late father of current King Abdullah II - rushed to Israel and visited the girls' families, a gesture that moved many Israelis at the time.

Fatihi remembered how Hussein knelt down next to the family when he came to visit them. The girls were from the town of Beit Shemesh in central Israel.

"We told him we really appreciated his visit," Fatihi said.

The 1997 attack came three years after Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty. Although the two countries cooperate on security matters, the peace treaty remains widely unpopular in Jordan, where many people are originally Palestinians.

rs/rc (AP, dpa)

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