German judge orders life sentence for nation's 'first Islamic-motivated terror attack'

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Friday, February 10, 2012

File photo of Frankfurt Airport, where the killings occurred.

A judge in Germany has ordered a man from Kosovo to be jailed for life for carrying out the "first Islamic-motivated terror attack" within the country. Arid Uka, 22, killed two US Air Force (USAF) men and wounded two more in a gun attack on their bus in Frankfurt. He was convicted today.

Uka, a Kosovan who has lived in Germany since he was four, worked in Frankfurt Airport's mail room. He became attracted to Islamic radicalism in a matter of months and would later cite a video appearing to show US soldiers raping women in Afghanistan as his motive for the attack. The video was not genuine.

Uka approached a USAF bus at the airport, asking a serviceman for a cigarette. Upon learning the group was bound for Afghanistan he fatally shot the man in the head before boarding the bus with a cry of Allahu Akbar (God is Great). There, he opened fire upon more USAF airmen, killing a second and injuring two others. The remaining eleven passengers escaped injury when his 9mm pistol jammed. The team had been loading their bus in front of the airport during a trip that began in the United Kingdom.

The fatalities were Nicholas Alden, 25, and Zachary Cuddeback, 21. Cuddeback had been the driver. Edgar Veguilla received arm and jaw wounds while Kristoffer Schneider was left requiring reconstructive surgery for his face. Uka's weapon failed whilst pointed at a fifth man's head. Schneider has ongoing pain, blindness in one eye, a missing section of skull and a face rebuilt from titanium. Schneider testified via videolink from a USAF base in his homeland.

Prosecution evidence included songs and text from Uka's computer, phone, and music player. He was said to have radicalised alone through access to material such as the fake rape film, which was actually a scene from the anti-war movie Redacted.

In sentencing Uka for murder Judge Thomas Sagebiel agreed with prosecutors there were aggravating circumstances that amounted to "particularly severe guilt," a move likely to prevent parole after fifteen years as is normally possible with German life sentences. It is the maximum possible sentence. The judge said the attack was aggravated by its ambush nature, that unarmed men were attacked and Alden was also attacked from behind, and that the wounds inflicted were serious.

Sagebiel also noted Uka's refusal to explain how he acquired the gun. There was no drug or alcohol use involved, and no evidence Uka had been trained for the attack.

The killer described himself to the court as spending much of his time on computers, with few friends and a largely non-religious family background. He sat motionless with his eyes down and arms folded during the 70-minute verdict and sentencing hearing.

Uka had not joined any radical organisations and the defence claimed he was not a terrorist. Last year he blamed inaccurate propaganda for having influenced him and apologised, claiming not to understand his own actions. His defence lawyer, Michaela Roth, also sought to have his youth, admissions, and a troubled childhood considered.

Roth had suggested sexual abuse when Uka was six had led to a return of trauma when he saw the falsified rape video. This was undermined by psychiatric expert opinion, a report finding the abuse — and the video — of no "decisive relevance". He was aware when he killed, and did not have a personality disorder although he was of "an immature personality," it concluded.

"The attack was not only cowardly and perfidious, but also damaged Germany's reputation," said Sagebiel, telling victims and their relatives he "hoped that by our bringing the perpetrator to justice swiftly, you can find some comfort... and will not harbour any rancour towards Germany." Alden's brother Joe was in court and later said "justice has been served."

Sister links

2011 Frankfurt Airport shooting on Wikipedia.