U.S. files charges in German airport shooting that killed two airmen
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany – U.S. federal prosecutors have charged the man accused of killing two U.S. airmen in March at Frankfurt International Airport with murder and attempted murder. He is currently in custody in Germany, where he is under investigation for the March 2 shooting.
The criminal complaint, filed Tuesday, represents the formal beginning of U.S. criminal proceedings against the alleged gunman, Arid Uka, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo who had been living in Germany, according to the Southern District federal court in New York.
Neither U.S. nor German authorities would comment on whether the U.S. is seeking extradition of Uka, who, according to German prosecutors confessed that he went to the Frankfurt airport intending to kill Americans “as revenge for the American mission in Afghanistan.”
Killed in the attack were Senior Airman Nicholas Alden and Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback. Two other airmen were wounded.
At the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, spokeswoman Jerika Richardson said the case was extremely sensitive, “so we have no comment” concerning possible extradition or any other information about the case.
A press release said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara praised “the investigative efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York,” and the Air Force office of Special Investigations among others, and “thanked German law enforcement officials and prosecutors, who are conducting their own investigation of this case under German law.”
Uka is facing murder and attempted murder charges in Germany. A spokesman for the German federal prosecutor’s office said Germany would continue pursuing its case against Uka, regardless of the U.S. action. In the German legal system, charges are not filed until after the invstigation is complete.
Uka’s German attorney, Jens-Joerg Hoffmann, said he was not aware of any extradition request.
Hoffmann, a public defender, said he doubts such a request would be fulfilled by the German government, since “the deed happened on German ground [soil].”
Uka has “admitted he committed these murders,” Hoffmann said.
A spokesman at Germany’s Interior Ministry said U.S. and German officials had discussed the case in the United States last month. He said Germany made clear that the case was under German jurisdiction. He would not elaborate on who was involved in those discussions.
The five-count U.S. complaint charges 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.
The complaint offers additional details of the shooting, which occurred as a group of 15 airmen boarded a blue military bus parked at the airport in front of Terminal 2, for transfer to Ramstein Air Base for a deployment to Afghanistan.
Three airmen were specifically referred to as witnesses, though the complaint notes other people were interviewed.
One of the three airmen, identified only as Witness-3, was the person who chased Uka into the airport terminal, where he was apprehended by German police, according to the complaint.
Uka had shot Alden just outside the bus and Cuddeback as he sat in the driver’s seat. Both were shot in the head, the complaint said. Uka continued to fire, wounding two others, it said.
“Uka subsequently stopped near Witness-3 [who] made eye contact with Uka,” the complaint stated.
“Uka pointed his gun at the head of Witness-3 and again said the phrase that sounded like ‘Halla Akbar’ [commonly written as Allahu Akbar, Arabic for “God is great”] Uka pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire.”
The 21-year-old gunman tried again, but to no avail. He then took off running.
“Witness-3 chased Uka into the airport and through portions of it,” the complaint said. “While running after Uka, Witness-3 screamed for the police. Uka was eventually surrounded by German law enforcement officers.” The airman “saw Uka holding a knife and saw German law enforcement officers place Uka under arrest.”
(Marcus Kloeckner also contributed to this story)