A 21-year-old gunman who allegedly shot dead two American airmen and seriously wounded two others after boarding a military bus at Frankfurt airport was almost certainly a lone operator motivated by Islamic extremist beliefs, German investigators said yesterday.
Federal prosecutors identified the man who carried out Wednesday’s attack as a Kosovo Albanian called Arid Uka whose family had been living in Germany for 40 years. They claim that under questioning he had confessed to targeting US servicemen.
“According to our investigations so far, he appears to be a lone perpetrator,” said Boris Rhein, the regional state interior minister heading the German investigation. “We have reasons to believe that he is a radical Muslim,” he added.
Uka is reported to have had an argument with a US military employee standing in front of the bus before he boarded the vehicle chanting “Allahu Akbar!” and opened fire at random.
The bus was carrying 15 airmen who had just arrived from their base at Lakenheath in England. Police overpowered and arrested Uka minutes later after he ran into the terminal building brandishing a knife.
Mr Rhein said a preliminary examination of Uka’s computer suggested that he had contact with other radical Muslims on a social network site, although there was no indication that he was a member of a terrorist cell.
Investigators said he had recently changed his name on Facebook “Abu Reyyan” – his apparent nom de guerre. They said he had been working part time in a mail sorting room at the airport before he carried out the attack.
Contacted at his home in Frankfurt yesterday, Uka’s father said he was shocked by the attack. He apologised to the families of the victim’s and the American people. Uka's uncle admitted that his nephew was a devout Muslim, but insisted that his family was pro-American and utterly dismayed by the attack.
Investigators remained baffled by the fact that the apparent culprit's family background appeared to be staunchly pro-American. Kosovo’s estimated 2 million ethnic Albanians are largely sympathetic to America after it played a leading role in Nato’s 1999 bombing of Serbia forces, which later paved the way for Kosovo to secede from Belgrade.
A cousin said all Uka's family in Frankfurt knew at first was that their son failed to come home from work at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday night. Neighbours described him as “religious – but completely normal.”