Islamist goes on trial in Germany over US airmen killings
A 21-year-old Kosovan man goes on trial here Wednesday charged with the murder of two US soldiers in a shooting that marked the first deadly Islamist attack on German soil.
The March 2 assault occurred at Frankfurt airport, in western Germany, where Arid Uka is accused of opening fire on a group of US soldiers on their way to fight in Afghanistan. Two airmen were killed and two wounded.
"The investigation showed that the accused wanted to kill the soldiers because they belonged to US forces under the ISAF mandate in Afghanistan," federal prosecutors said, referring to the NATO-led operation.
They say the accused was influenced by Islamic extremist appeals on the Internet calling for recruits in Germany to join a jihad against US forces because of their deployment in Afghanistan.
A "saddened and outraged" US President Barack Obama said the day of the killings that Washington would "spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place."
Uka, who faces a possible sentence of life imprisonment for murder and attempted murder, was arrested at the scene as dozens of witnesses looked on.
Prosecutors believe the young man, who was born in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo but who grew up in Frankfurt, acted alone and did not belong to a terrorist network.
Uka's family says it has no idea why he would have carried out such an attack. German newspapers describe him as a polite but reserved.
He is said to have done poorly at school, to be addicted to violent computer games, and to have sought out Islamist propaganda.
He reportedly told investigators it was on the morning of the attack that he decided to go out and kill as many US soldiers as possible in revenge for the alleged rape of Afghan women by US troops, as claimed in an online video he had just watched.
Early on the afternoon of March 2 he went to the airport, by public transport, carrying a pistol, ammunition and two knives in a backpack, according to media reports.
He picked out a group of US soldiers who had just flown in from Britain and who were about to travel by bus to the nearby US airbase at Ramstein from where many of troops continue on, by military transport, to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Uka cadged a cigarette from one of the soldiers and asked if they were on their way to Afghanistan.
When the American said yes, he allegedly loaded his pistol and followed the men towards a waiting army bus.
At point-blank range, he is said to have fired into the back of the head of a 25-year-old soldier who died shortly afterwards.
Shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), he then rushed onto the bus and shot dead the 21-year-old bus driver before opening fire on two more soldiers, aged 21 and 25, who were both seriously wounded, prosecutors say.
He is believed to have taken aim at another man cowering behind a seat, but his pistol misfired and he ran off into the airport terminal, pursued by another soldier.
Police arrested him shortly afterwards.
A verdict is expected early next year.
The shootings have been called the first jihadist attack in Germany. In 1986, a bomb in a West Berlin nightclub blamed on Syria 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 the hijackers' ringleader, and in 2007 police thwarted a major plot to attack US soldiers and and civilians in Germany.
© 2011 AFP