Frankfurt attack was 'Afghanistan revenge'

4th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

German prosecutors said Friday a suspected Islamic radical shot dead two US airmen to avenge alleged atrocities in Afghanistan, and that more deaths were only prevented because his gun jammed.

"The accused only attacked the soldiers because he thought members of the US armed forces had committed serious crimes in Afghanistan," said Rainer Griesbaum, head of the "terrorism" unit at the federal prosecutors' office.

The 21-year-old told investigators the "trigger" for Wednesday's attack was seeing a video the day before on the Internet that he claimed showed US troops "ransacking a Muslim house and raping the family's daughter," Griesbaum said.

"He said he could not get the pictures out of his head and wanted to prevent American soldiers going to Afghanistan and carrying out such acts," added the prosecutor.

The suspect, originally from Muslim-majority Kosovo but living in Germany, also said he often overheard in his job at the airport US troops "bragging about bloody acts they were about to commit in Afghanistan," Griesbaum said.

He approached his first victim outside the terminal building at one of Europe's busiest airports as he was about to board a bus, asked him for a cigarette and if he was being deployed to Afghanistan.

The airman answered in the affirmative, and the gunman, armed with a nine-millimetre pistol, a magazine with 14 bullets plus two knives, shot him in the back of the head, killing him.

Boarding the bus, he cried "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is Greatest"), Griesbaum said, and shot the driver in the head. He also died.

He then shot two other soldiers, one in the head and the other in the chest, leaving him with life-threatening injuries. Both were in intensive care in a Frankfurt hospital.

He then went up to a fifth serviceman, "lifted his pistol to his head and pulled the trigger twice," Griesbaum told reporters.

But the gun jammed.

The man then fled into the terminal building, but the serviceman, whom he had just tried to kill seconds before, chased after him and overpowered him, with the help of German police.

The attack, if confirmed as such, was the first Islamic extremist attack on German soil. In 1986, a bomb blamed on Libya in a West Berlin disco killed two US soldiers.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were planned in part in Hamburg by an Al-Qaeda cell led by one of the hijackers, and in 2007 police thwarted a major bomb plot to attack US soldiers and and civilians in Germany.

A "saddened and outraged" US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that Washington would "spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place."

Griesbaum said that there were no indications that the alleged gunman, who investigators believe was radicalised on the Internet, had links to any "international terrorist groups."

This meant that the incident was not a sign that other attacks might be imminent, he said.

"But what has become more concrete however is the danger of Islamists working alone and spontaneously, as underlined repeatedly by the security authorities.

"This case makes clear again that it is of decisive importance that jihadist propaganda, which was probably the trigger for this, should be tackled more effectively."

© 2011 AFP

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