FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — A 21-year-old Kosovo Albanian confessed Wednesday to killing two U.S. 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 in the March 2 slaying of Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, a 25-year-old from South Carolina, and 21-year-old Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback of Virginia. He also faces three counts of attempted murder in connection with the wounding of two others.
Although Germany has suffered scores of terrorist attacks in past decades, largely from leftist groups such as the Red Army Faction, the airport attack was the first attributed to an Islamic extremist.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, about a half-dozen other jihadist plots either were thwarted or failed — including a 2007 plan to kill Americans at the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Prosecutor Herbert Deimer told a state court in Frankfurt that Uka went to the airport with the intent “to kill an indeterminate number of American soldiers, but if possible, a large number.”
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.
“To this day I try to understand what happened and why I did it… but I don’t understand,” he said.
Uka described becoming increasingly introverted in the months ahead of the attack, staying at home and playing computer games and watching Islamic extremist propaganda on the Internet.
The night before the crime, Uka said that 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 anti-war 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’d 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.