- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FRANKFURT, Germany | A gunman identified as a German-born Muslim killed two American airmen Wednesday and wounded two others, after shooting at a U.S. military bus at the Frankfurt airport, authorities said.

Boris Rhein, the top security official in the German state of Hesse where the shooting took place, identified the shooter as Arif Uka, a 21-year-old from Kosovo. Family members in Kosovo, however, described him as a devout Muslim, who was born and raised in Germany and worked at the airport.

In Washington, President Obama promised to “spare no effort” in investigating the slayings.

“I’m saddened and I’m outraged by this attack,” he said.

The attack came as the bus sat outside the airport’s Terminal 2, according to Frankfurt police spokesman Manfred Fuellhardt. The bus driver and a passenger were killed, while one airman suffered light injuries and a second suffered serious wounds and was in life-threatening condition, he said.

The attacker and U.S. military personnel apparently had an altercation in front of the bus just before the man started shooting, Mr. Fuellhardt said. The attacker also briefly entered the bus and was apprehended by police when he tried to escape.

In Mitrovica, Kosovo, family members said the suspect’s name was spelled “Arid” not “Arif,” saying that he was born and educated in Germany where his family moved some 40 years ago.

His uncle, Rexhep Uka, said the suspect’s grandfather was a religious leader at a mosque in a village near Mitrovica.

Mitrovica is best known for the ongoing ethnic division between majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs. The former mining town, however, also has been the focus of reports that it breeds radical Islamic extremists.

In the past, Western intelligence reports have said the region could be an ideal recruitment ground for the so-called “white al-Qaeda” Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or U.S. cities and execute terrorist attacks.

Kosovo remained part of Serbia amid the collapse of former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

U.S. Air Force Europe spokeswoman Maj. Beverly Mock said all four victims were airmen. They were based in Britain, a U.S. Air Force spokesman for the Lakenheath airfield in eastern England said.

Lakenheath is home to the 48th Fighter Wing, the only F-15 fighter wing in Europe. It employs some 4,500 active-duty military members, as well as 2,000 British and U.S. civilians.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed sympathy for the victims and their families and pledged that Germany would do everything in its power to investigate the crime.

“It is a terrible event,” she said.

The airmen were bound to Ramstein Air Base from where they were to have been deployed to support an overseas operation, the U.S. military said, without elaborating.

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