German court sentences US airmen's killer to life

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — An Islamic extremist who killed two U.S. airmen in an attack at Frankfurt airport last year was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison Friday.

Arid Uka, 22, was also convicted of attempted murder and serious bodily harm for wounding two other servicemen and for taking aim at a third before his 9mm pistol jammed.

Uka killed Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, 25, from South Carolina, and Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, from Virginia in the March 2 attack on an Air Force security team headed for Afghanistan as its members boarded a bus at the airport.

Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider survived devastating injuries from a head wound. Another airman, Edgar Veguilla, was hit in the jaw and arm.

Judge Thomas Sagebiel ruled at the state court in Frankfurt that the circumstances of the killing mean Uka bears “particularly severe guilt.”

That means he won’t immediately be eligible for parole after 15 years as is usual in Germany, but must wait several more years for his behavior and possibility for rehabilitation to be reviewed.

Life sentences without a chance for parole are not possible under German law.

In his ruling, Sagebiel cited the fact that Uka shot unarmed people — from behind in Alden’s case — and the severity of the injuries and disabilities suffered by Schneider and Veguilla.

Sagebiel also noted that only the pistol’s malfunction kept Uka from killing more people trapped on the bus.

Uka, brought to court in a dark hooded sweat shirt and black sweater, smiled and chatted with his lawyers before and after the sentence was announced. He then sat with his eyes closed and his head down as the judge detailed his reasoning.

Prosecutors said Uka, an ethnic Albanian born in Kosovo who grew up in Germany, was an example of a lone-wolf extremist who became radicalized on his own by reading and watching jihadist propaganda on the Internet.

During the trial, they introduced as evidence dozens of files containing songs and written material pulled from his cell phone, music player and computer.

Uka, who worked as a temporary mail sorter at the airport, testified that he wanted to stop U.S. service personnel from going to Afghanistan after viewing a video on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 Brian De Palma anti-war film “Redacted,” taken out of context.

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