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DARMSTADT, Germany — German authorities are conducting DNA tests, reviewing surveillance tapes and sifting through other evidence in hopes of identifying two men — believed to be U.S. soldiers — suspected in the brutal killing of a taxi driver last fall, police said Thursday.

Since the Oct. 8 death of Ahmad Abdul Jamil Bhatti, police in Frankfurt have spoken to 180 U.S. soldiers based in Wiesbaden, said Markus Görger, a lead detective in the case. At this point, police can’t definitively say the perpetrators were U.S. soldiers, but they are certain Bhatti’s last fare began at Wiesbaden Army Airfield, headquarters of the 1st Armored Division.

“We are looking for two persons who left the crime scene,” Görger said.

Frankfurt police, who have jurisdiction in the case, believe the two men were the ones who stabbed the native Pakistani multiple times in the chest and head and then set the cab ablaze.

Investigators have viewed videotapes taken by surveillance cameras mounted in buildings near where Bhatti, 42, was killed. The dead-end street, located near Frankfurt’s red-light district, is also home to a large bank. For security purposes, surveillance cameras blanket the area.

With the help of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s office in Wiesbaden, German authorities also have been poring over a surveillance tape that apparently caught the start of what became Bhatti’s final fare.

American investigators “are doing their best” to help, Görger said. “They are interested in this case, too.”

In addition, German police are conducting tests in hope of matching the suspects’ DNA samples, which the Army banks for identification purposes, with evidence recovered from the crime scene, Görger said. Such work takes time, he added.

“This is not an easy case,” Görger said.

Authorities are certain Bhatti didn’t open his door for a second fare because the time line between the two surveillance tapes fits perfectly with the time it takes to drive from the airfield to the crime scene.

“We are 100 percent sure the cab left the airfield at a specific time,” Görger said.

Bhatti was popular among local taxi drivers, according to several cabbies interviewed last fall. In a show of solidarity, upward of 300 area taxicabs joined the funeral procession. Bhatti left behind a wife and four children.

His younger brother, who asked his name not be used, described Bhatti as a “cool-headed person. He was not against Americans,” he said in an interview last fall.

Görger said authorities have yet to ascertain why Bhatti was murdered. The detective wonders if the killers, probably just back from a lengthy tour in Iraq, had a somewhat jaded view of Bhatti, given his ethnicity.

“It was probably not a planned murder,” Görger said. “It just happened.”

Something, he suspects, must have made the soldiers snap.

“That’s the problem with war,” Görger said. For some soldiers, “the war [rages on] in their heads” long after the deployment ends.

German police continue to offer a reward of 6,000 euros to anyone with information that leads to an arrest. They can be contacted at 069-755-51108 or 069-755-54210. The DSN number for the Wiesbaden military police desk is: 337-5096.


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