- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2011

FRANKFURT, Germany | The suspect in the shooting deaths of two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt airport confessed to targeting American military members, a German security official said Thursday as authorities investigated the killings as a possible act of Islamic terrorism.

German federal prosecutors took over the probe into Wednesday’s shooting, which also injured two U.S. airmen, one of them critically. They are working together with U.S. authorities.

Hesse state Interior Minister Boris Rhein told reporters in Wiesbaden that the suspect, identified as a 21-year-old German-born ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, was apparently radicalized over the last few weeks. The attacker’s family in northern Kosovo identified him as Arid Uka, an Islamic fundamentalist whose family has been living in Germany for 40 years.

The suspect opened fire on a busload of U.S. airmen on their way to serve in Afghanistan, said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.

Mr. Uka’s family said he worked at Frankfurt airport and was a devout Muslim. He was taken into custody immediately after the shooting.

German and American officials disagreed over whether the suspect had help in the shooting.

“From our investigation so far, we conclude that he acted alone,” Mr. Rhein said. “So far we cannot see a network.”

Though the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo’s capital of Pristina referred to “the act of a single individual,” Col. Lapan at the Pentagon said others could have been involved in planning the attack.

“One of the key focuses in the investigation will be to determine whether others were involved in the incident besides the shooter,” he said.

Mr. Rhein said police, who searched his home and computer, discovered Mr. Uka had contact with other radical Muslims on Facebook. His Facebook page included a map of Kosovo with the Arabic inscription, “There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his prophet.”

“There are signs that this is about a radicalized Muslim,” he said. “But there is no network in the sense of a terror cell.”

Mr. Rhein said the suspect recently changed his profile name on Facebook to the nom de guerre, “Abu Reyyan.”

One airman remained in critical condition after being shot in the head and the other wounded airman was not in a life-threatening condition, Frankfurt police spokesman Juergen Linker told the DAPD news agency. None of the victims have been publicly identified.

Police said the attacker had an altercation with U.S. military personnel in front of a bus outside the airport’s Terminal 2. They said the man started shooting, then boarded the bus briefly and was apprehended by police when he tried to escape.

The airmen, based in the Lakenheath airfield in eastern England, were bound for Ramstein Air Base, from where they were to have been sent to Afghanistan.

The U.S. has some 50,000 troops stationed in Germany. It operates several major facilities in the Frankfurt region, including the Ramstein Air Base, which is often used as a logistical hub for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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