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Jordanian soldier gets life for killing US troops

A wreath with a Latin saying that means "to liberate the oppressed" commemorates Army Special Forces

Amman, Jordan (CNN)A Jordanian soldier is to serve a life sentence with hard labor for the premeditated murder of three US soldiers at an airbase in Jordan last year, according to Jordan’s official Petra news agency.

On Monday, a Jordanian Military Court issued a guilty verdict against Cpl. Ma’arik Al-Tawayha for killing the three service members. He was also found guilty of disobedience of military orders and dishonorably discharged.

According to Reuters, after the head of the military court read the verdict on Monday, the soldier shouted: "I only did my duty!"

US Embassy representatives who were present during the trial and judicial proceedings said they appreciated "the expedience and seriousness of the court proceedings" following the guilty verdict on Monday.

"We are reassured to see the perpetrator brought to justice," Eric Barbee, the US Embassy spokesman in Amman, told CNN. "We appreciate the access provided to us and to the families of the victims."

The US Army Special Forces soldiers were shot at the King Faisal Air Base in Jordan last November. An intense firefight erupted when al-Tawayha — who was wearing body armor and carrying an M-16 rifle — opened fire on their vehicle as it stopped at the base’s security gate.

Initially Jordanian state media blamed the incident on the US soldiers’ failure to adhere to proper procedures at the base’s entrance. But US officials disputed this and a subsequent US military investigation found surveillance footage of the event.

The Green Berets, who were in Jordan on a training mission, had been traveling in an unarmored vehicle without body armor and carrying only sidearms because of the lack of perceived threat and the country’s status as an American ally.

Army Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Staff Sgt. Matthew Lewellen was fatally wounded when the Jordanian guard opened fire. The third man, Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, suffered a mortal wound after firing his pistol at the Jordanian guard.

Moriarty’s actions distracted their attacker, allowing a fourth Green Beret to come around the other side of a cement barrier and fire at the guard until al-Tawayha "fell to the ground and was no longer a threat."

Jordan is a key US ally in the region. Over the years the two countries have increased military collaboration with the US deploying Patriot missile systems to the country to bolster defense as the violence from the Syrian civil war has spread. In exchange, Jordan has provided facilities in country for US forces to train Syrian rebels and from which American troops have carried out joint military exercises, according to Jane’s Military Database.

Additionally, Jordan’s security forces and air force have been among the most active members of the global coalition in the fight against ISIS.

CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Ryan Browne also contributed to this report.