2011 in review
Gunman attacks U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2011
Two U.S. airmen were killed and two injured March 2 when a gunman invoked Allah and opened fire on an Air Force bus parked outside Frankfurt Airport.
Authorities said it was the first jihad-inspired killing in the country, and that the suspected gunman, Arid Uka, a 21-year-old Kosovo Albanian who grew up in Frankfurt, had acted alone.
Uka, an airport postal worker, admitted to the shootings after he was captured inside the airport and also on the first day of his trial for two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
He apologized, saying he’d been misled by jihadist propaganda on the Internet and decided to kill Americans after seeing a video purporting to show U.S. soldiers raping an Afghan girl.
The video turned out to be a scene from the movie “Redacted,” about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and her family.
President Barack Obama said he was “saddened and outraged” by the shooting.
One week after the incident, the U.S. military suspended its use of the distinctive blue school buses at the airport, according to airport officials. In the days after the shooting, the U.S. military in Europe banned servicemembers from wearing their uniforms off base, a policy that’s since been relaxed by individual service components.
The airmen were headed for Ramstein Air Base before deploying to Afghanistan. Senior Airman Nicholas Alden, 25, of Williamston, S.C., was shot in the back of the head as he stood outside the bus. Alden was a military police officer with the 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in Britain.
Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback, 21, of Stanardsville, Va., the bus driver, was killed when Uka boarded the bus and said “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” — before he allegedly shot Cuddeback in the right temple, according to trial testimony.
Two other airmen were injured. Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider, 25, of Irwin, Pa., was hit in the head and now, according to his testimony at a hearing last month, is blind in one eye, missing a part of his skull and suffers from migraines.
Senior Airman Edgar Veguilla, from Wichita Falls, Texas, was less seriously wounded and said he has fully recovered.
The third attempted-murder count involved Staff Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 23, who testified that Uka shot twice at him but the gun jammed both times.
“I looked and the pistol was in my face,” Brewer told the three judges deciding the case. Brewer said he’d looked into Uka’s eyes, and when a judge asked what he saw, Brewer replied, “Hate. Disgust almost.”
Uka faces a life sentence, with parole eligibility at 15 years, although German legal experts said he’s likely to serve 18 to 20 years. Germany does not sentence people to death, nor does it impose life sentences without possible parole. His trial, which began in August, is scheduled to be completed in January.
In June, the U.S. federal prosecutors filed murder and terrorism-related charges against Uka in federal district court in Manhattan. Officials declined to say whether they were seeking Uka’s extradition.