Germany files murder charges against Albanian in shooting of U.S. airmen
Stars and Stripes
UPDATED JULY 7, 12:18 P.M.
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Federal prosecutors in Germany have filed murder charges against the man accused of killing two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt International Airport in March.
Last month, U.S. federal prosecutors began criminal proceedings against Arid Uka, 21, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo who had been living in Germany. Uka, the suspected gunman who has been in German custody since the March 2 shooting, was charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, according to a news release from the German federal prosecutor’s office.
According to the release, Uka wanted to kill members of the U.S. military taking part in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. His actions were “the expression of a radical-Islamic viewpoint, inspired by jihadist propaganda, that includes the indiscriminate killing” of U.S. servicemembers in Germany, the release said.
Marcus Koehler, a spokesman in the federal prosecutor’s office, described Uka as a “radicalized loner,” influenced by jihadist propaganda on the Internet, who during the course of last year, “felt himself obligated” to take action against U.S. troops involved in theNATO mission in Afghanistan. He did not elaborate.
Killed in the attack were Senior Airman Nicholas Alden and Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback. Two other airmen, Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider and Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla, were wounded. The German prosecutor’s statement said one of those injured — it did not specify which — lost sight in one eye.
According to German and U.S. authorities, Uka pointed his gun at a third airman and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun apparently jammed. Uka then fled, pursued by one of the airmen, and was apprehended in the airport by German police.
Uka’s German attorney, Jens-Joerg Hoffmann, said his client was formally notified Wednesday of the German charges. “He knew this indictment would come.”
Last month, Hoffmann said Uka had “admitted he committed these murders.”
The release from the prosector’s office said the accused found a jihadist propaganda video on the Internet the evening before the shooting that allegedly showed the rape of Muslim women by foreign soldiers.
It said he then resolved on the morning of March 2 to kill as many U.S. military personnel as possible at Frankfurt International Airport, who were headed to Afghanistan, and his choice of victims was based solely on the fact that they were members of the U.S. military.
Koehler, the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said the video was five minutes long and consisted of a number of jihadist propaganda video clips, including a scene from a Brian De Palma film called “Redacted.” The 2007 film was broadly based on the Mahmudiyah killings in Iraq in March 2006. The incident included the gang rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. troops.
Hoffmann, Uka’s lawyer, said particularly troubling to his client was one scene that seemingly showed the rape and killings through the eyes of a soldier wearing night-vision goggles.
“He thought this was real,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann added his client “is very juvenile” in character, given his age.
“This is not a video game,” Hoffmann said. “There is no reset button.”
The German prosecutor’s office said the accused was carrying a pistol and a knife in his backpack. It said he also wore a fanny pack that contained a second knife, as well as a magazine with 12 bullets and an additional 10 loose bullets.
At 2:45 p.m., he observed two U.S. servicemembers in the baggage claim area and followed them to a waiting military bus. There, he asked one of the 16 airmen boarding the bus for a cigarette and asked where they were going. When he heard they were headed to Afghanistan, he turned around and loaded the magazine into the pistol hidden in his backpack, the release from the prosecutor’s office said.
According to statements from both the German and U.S. prosecutors’ offices, the accused shot Alden, 25, in the back of the head, just outside the bus, then boarded and shot Cuddeback, who was sitting in the driver’s seat. As he continued to fire, he repeatedly shouted “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is Great,” German authorities said.
Koehler said no trial date has been set. If convicted, Uka could face life in prison, Koehler said, the most severe punishment in Germany.
It was unclear Thursday how or if the German charges would affect the U.S. case against Uka. U.S. federal prosecutors reached in New York on Thursday refused to comment.
The five-count U.S. complaint, filed June 22 in federal court in New York, charged Uka with two counts of murdering officers [employees] of the United States government, one count of attempting to murder officers of the government, one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death, and one count of committing an act of violence at an international civil airport resulting in the death of another person.
Neither U.S. nor German authorities would comment at that time on whether the U.S. would seek extradition of Uka.