Suspect admits killing US airmen at German airport
Thursday, September 1, 2011
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A Kosovo Albanian man confessed Wednesday to killing two U.S. airmen at the Frankfurt airport, saying in an emotional testimony at the opening of his trial that he had been influenced by radical Islamic propaganda online.
Arid Uka is charged with two counts of murder for the March 2 slaying of Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, 25, from South Carolina, and Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, from Virginia.
The 21-year-old Uka also faces three counts of attempted murder for wounding two more airmen and taking aim at a third before his gun jammed.
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.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, there have been about a half-dozen other jihadist plots that were either thwarted or failed — including a 2007 plan to kill Americans at the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base.
Uka went to the airport with the intent “to kill an indeterminate number of American soldiers, but if possible a large number,” prosecutor Herbert Diemer told a state court in Frankfurt.
No pleas are entered in the German system, and Uka confessed to the killings after the indictment was read, telling the court “what I did was wrong but I cannot undo what I did.” He went on to urge other radical Muslims not to seek inspiration in his attack, urging them not to be taken in by “lying propaganda” on the Internet.
Uka, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a crisp white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, smiled at his attorneys as he was brought in and his handcuffs were removed. But he wept repeatedly as he recounted the attack and watched the jihadist videos he said motivated him.
The indictment says Uka went to the airport armed with a pistol, extra ammunition and two knives. Inside Terminal 2, he spotted two U.S. servicemen who had just arrived and followed them to their U.S. Air Force bus.
He first shot unarmed Alden in the back of the head, the indictment alleged. He then boarded the vehicle shouting “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — and shot and killed Cuddeback, who was the driver, before firing at others.
After 16 servicemen, including the driver, were on or near the bus, Uka approached one of the men for a cigarette, prosecutors said. He confirmed they were U.S. Air Force members en route to Afghanistan, then “turned around, put the magazine that had been concealed in his backpack into his pistol, and cocked the weapon,” the indictment said.
He seriously wounded two other airmen — Kristoffer Schneider, 26, lost the sight in his right eye, and Edgar Veguilla, 22, was hit in the jaw and elbow.
Then Uka’s pistol jammed and he fled into the airport, where he was chased down by police, prosecutors said.