US names murdered Frankfurt airmen

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The Independent Online

The US Air Force has named a British-based airman who was one of two servicemen murdered as they arrived at a German airport.

The victims of the shooting were 25-year-old Senior Airman Nicholas Alden of South Carolina, and Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback of Virginia.

German authorities said a 21-year-old temporary letter sorter had admitted targeting Americans when he opened fire with a handgun on a busload of Lakenheath airmen at Frankfurt International Airport on Wednesday, killing two and wounding two others. The airmen were on their way to deployment in Afghanistan.

Senior Airman Alden was assigned to the 48th Security Forces Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk and Airman Cuddeback, who was driving the bus, was with the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Meanwhile it emerged that the suspect, Arid Uka, grew up in a well-kept immigrant neighbourhood in Frankfurt as the son of a relatively prosperous, but not particularly religious family of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo - a group notable more for their pro-American outlook than mosque attendance.

A judge in Karlsruhe yesterday ordered Uka to be held in prison on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

German investigators said the indications were that Uka turned only recently to extremism. They said that he had contact with other radicals through social networking sites and elsewhere, but it appears he was not part of a terrorist organisation.

"From our investigation so far we conclude that he acted alone," Hesse's top security official, interior minister Boris Rhein said. "So far we cannot see a network."

Uka's Facebook page - with "There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet" in Arabic over a map of Kosovo as his profile picture - was in stark contrast to the unassuming, somewhat stand-offish young man neighbours knew.

"He was nice and very quiet - I would say, shy," said Jessica Friedrich, who went to the nearby primary school with him and recognised the scowling, eyes-downcast photo of "Abu Reyyan" - a recently acquired nom de guerre according to Mr Rhein - as him.

"He was a completely normal guy," said Katharina Freier, who lives across the hallway from the Ukas.

Uka's father Murat would not speak to journalists who gathered outside, but told Kosovo's daily Gazeta Express that family members were shocked.

"Americans are our friends and they have helped us very much. I can never agree with what has happened," he told the newspaper.

Kosovo Albanians are notably pro-American thanks to the US-led Nato air war that halted a Serbian government crackdown on the rebellious province in 1999, when dictator Slobodan Milosevic still ruled in Belgrade.

The air war and subsequent deployment of peacekeepers, followed by United Nations administration, paved the way for Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008.

The imam at Frankfurt's Albanian mosque, Ahmed Kajoshi, called the shootings "a great shame and terrible". He said the Ukas did not worship there.

In addition to contacts with radicals on Facebook, an official also confirmed that Rami M, who was picked up in Pakistan last year and extradited to Germany where he faces charges of membership of a terrorist organisation, also lived in Uka's building.

It was not clear how much contact Uka had with Rami M, who left Germany in 2009 for Pakistan, but neighbours said they had known one another. His last name has not been made public.

In Washington, a US law enforcement official said Uka was not on any American watch list.

Mr Rhein said Uka's apartment and his computer had been searched and investigators believed he had contact with other radical Muslims on a social network site "but there is no network in the sense of a terror cell".

Several of Uka's 128 Facebook friends also said that they knew little about him

"He was very unremarkable and low key," Kerem Kenan said. "We had no personal contacts. I'm appalled by the incident."