Germany, US probe gunman 'terror' link

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

German and US investigators were probing Thursday whether a fatal shooting of two US airmen on their bus at Frankfurt airport was an Islamist attack, as they questioned the alleged gunman.

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

"We are not ruling anything out at present," Boris Rhein, interior minister of the west German state of Hesse, was quoted as saying immediately after the incident, which also left two US airmen seriously injured.

"At the moment we do not know whether the background to this was terrorist, jihadist, Islamist or something quite different."

But German media reported on Thursday that there were growing indications to suggest that the suspect, arrested in the terminal building reportedly still with large amounts of ammunition and a handgun, was an Islamist extremist.

Federal prosecutors, who in Germany are responsible for "terrorist" cases, on Thursday took over the enquiry, police said. Reports named the suspect as Arid U.

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

On the page he was a "fan" of several Islamic websites, had a link to a jihadi war song and had commented "this stupid kuffar ('unbeliever')" on a posting, Spiegel said. The page was no longer available on Thursday.

"I am saddened and outraged by this attack," US President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. "We will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place."

A police source in Pristina said that the suspect was an ethnic Albanian from the town of Mitrovica in the north of the disputed territory of Kosovo, and that he was not on record as having fallen foul of the law before.

The incident came a month after Germany's 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 has 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 who dreamed of "mounting a second September 11" for a plot thwarted in 2007 to attack US soldiers and civilians in Germany.

The four included two German converts to Islam, a Turkish citizen and a German of Turkish origin.

"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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