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Suspect confesses to killing 2 US airmen in German airport

Says extremist material online moved him to act

By David McHugh and David Rising
Associated Press / September 1, 2011

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FRANKFURT - A Kosovo Albanian man confessed yesterday to killing two US airmen at the Frankfurt airport, saying in 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, of South Carolina, and Airman First Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, of Virginia.

Uka, 21, 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 in the United States, 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 US 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.

“To this day I try to understand what happened and why I did it . . . but I don’t understand,’’ he said, at times speaking so softly that court officials had to bring in a microphone and put it directly in front of him.

Cooperating with authorities and confessing can help reduce a defendant’s sentence - but Uka refused to tell the court where he obtained the semiautomatic weapon he used, which Judge Thomas Sagebiel said meant his confession was incomplete.

Uka described becoming increasingly introverted in the months before the attack, staying at home and playing computer games and watching Islamic propaganda on the Internet.

The night before the crime, Uka said, he followed a link to a video posted on Facebook that purported to show American soldiers raping a teenage Muslim girl. It turned out to be a scene from the 2007 antiwar Brian De Palma film “Redacted,’’ taken out of context.

He said he then decided he should do anything possible to prevent more American soldiers from going to Afghanistan.

“I thought what I saw in that video, these people would do in Afghanistan,’’ he told the court, his voice choking with emotion as he wiped away tears.

Uka conceded when asked by prosecutor Jochen Weingarten that the airman driving the bus had not been going to Afghanistan. On the bus on the way to the airport to look for victims, he said he listened to Islamic music on his iPod while nursing doubts that he would be able to follow through with his plan.

“On the one hand I wanted to do something to help the women, and on the other hand I hoped I would not see any soldiers,’’ he told the court.

He says he now does not understand why he went through with the killings. “If you ask me why I did this, I can only say . . . I don’t understand anymore how I went that far.’’

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