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Second day of trial Wednesday for suspect in Frankfurt Airport shooting

HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Kosovo Albanian man charged with murder in the killing of two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt Airport in March returns to the courtroom Wednesday, two weeks after publicly confessing to the killings at the opening of his trial.

Arid Uka, the 21-year-old defendant, told the court last month that “what I did was wrong, but I cannot undo what I did,” according to The Associated Press. He also urged others not to seek inspiration in his attack, saying he had been influenced by jihadist propaganda on the Internet.

Uka is charged with two counts of murder for the March 2 killing of Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, 25, from South Carolina, and Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, from Virginia.

Cuddeback’s family is a co-plaintiff in the case, represented by a German lawyer who may question witnesses, bring motions and appeal rulings from the five-judge panel in charge of the case. The lawyer, Marcus Steffel, has said he’ll ask for an exceptionally long prison sentence for Uka.

If convicted, Uka could face life in prison, the most severe punishment in Germany. There is no life without parole, just as there is no death sentence, and those sentenced to life in Germany may be paroled after 15 years, although that is not automatic.

Uka also faces three counts of attempted murder for wounding two more airmen before his pistol jammed as he aimed it at a third airman, authorities said. The airmen were boarding or already on board a bus that was to take them to Ramstein Air Base before deployment to Afghanistan.

Uka, who moved to Germany with his family as a child and who worked at an airport post office, described in his court testimony becoming increasingly introverted in the months before the attack, according to the AP, playing computer games and watching Islamic extremist propaganda on the Internet.

Prosecutors have said Uka watched a video on the Internet that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl, but that what he watched was a scene from the movie “Redacted,” based on the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. troops in 2006.

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“I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan,” Uka told the court last month.

“If you ask me why I did this, I can only say ... I don’t understand anymore how I went that far,” according to the AP.

Wednesday’s proceedings, as well as the following trial date, Oct. 5, are expected to be brief, a court spokesman said, with no witnesses called, but the reading of Internet chat exchanges for the record. The trial is scheduled to continue intermittently through January. U.S. airmen are among witnesses expected to testify Oct. 24 and Nov. 14.

Although Germany has experienced scores of terrorist attacks in past decades, largely from leftist groups like the Red Army Faction, the airport attack was the first attributed to an Islamic extremist.

German authorities say Uka acted alone.

He also has been charged with murder in U.S. federal district court.

montgomeryn@estripes.osd.mil

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