Germany suspects airport gunman was militant Islamist

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

German investigators said Thursday they suspected a Kosovan man arrested for the fatal shooting of two US airmen on their bus at Frankfurt airport was an Islamic extremism.

"In view of the circumstances, there is a suspicion that this was an act with Islamist motivation," said federal prosecutors, who in Germany are responsible for "terrorism" cases and who have taken charge of the probe.

The 21-year-old man from the Muslim-majority territory in southeastern Europe cried "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is Greatest"), reports quoted witnesses as saying, before opening fire at one of Europe's busiest airports on Wednesday.

In what, if confirmed, would be the first Islamic "terror" attack on German soil, the incident also left two US airmen -- there were around a dozen on board -- seriously injured.

One of them was reportedly shot in the head and was fighting for his life on Thursday in a Frankfurt hospital.

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

Investigators were studying a page on social networking website Facebook believed to belong to the suspects on which he makes no secret of his extremist tendencies, Spiegel magazine's online edition said.

On the page he is a "fan" of several Islamic websites, has a link to a jihadi war song and had commented "this stupid kuffar ('unbeliever')" on a posting, Spiegel said.

The Bild daily reported that police combed the suspect's flat in a grubby tower block on the outskirts of Frankfurt after the attack, removing sacks of evidence. Commandos also raided his parents' house.

Reports named the suspect as Arid U. Boris Rhein, interior minister of the western state of Hesse, said he worked at the airport in a postal distribution centre.

Germany's federal interior minister said however that he saw no reason to boost police presence around the country, which suggests that investigators do not believe he was part of a wider "terror cell" about launch more attacks.

"Currently, investigations indicate that he was working alone and there is no evidence of any network," said Rhein.

The incident came a month after German authorities had announced that additional security measures imposed late last year in response to indications of an imminent "terrorist" attack were set to be gradually scaled back.

The US military has a number of major bases near Frankfurt, including Ramstein where the bus was headed, which are used as hubs for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Germany opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. It had never suffered an attack by Islamic extremists but a number of suspected bomb plots have been uncovered.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were planned in part in the German port city of Hamburg by an Al-Qaeda cell led by Mohammed Atta, the hijacker of the first plane to strike New York's World Trade Center.

In March 2010 a German court jailed four Islamic militants including two German converts to Islam who dreamed of "mounting a second September 11" for a plot thwarted in 2007 to attack US soldiers and civilians in Germany.

"The German government will do all it can to investigate what happened," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin as she expressed her condolences.

Kosovo's government condemned what it called a "horrible" attack "against civilised values and against the traditions of the people of Kosovo."

Kosovo's newspapers on Thursday lamented the damage done to the territory's image.

© 2011 AFP

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