FRANKFURT, Germany - 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 for the 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 like the Red Army Faction, the airport attack was the first attributed to an Islamic extremist.Trial opens in attack on U.S. airmen in Germany
U.S. airmen's alleged killer on trial in Germany
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks 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 U.S. Air Force's Ramstein Air Base that was uncovered by German authorities acting on a tip from U.S. intelligence sources.
Prosecutor Herbert Deimer told a state court in Frankfurt that Uka went to the airport on March 2 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 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.
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.
Six months later, 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."
The indictment says Uka went to the airport armed with a pistol, extra ammunition and two knives. Inside Terminal 2, he spotted two U.S. servicemen who had just arrived and followed them to their U.S. Air Force bus.
After 16 servicemen, including the driver, were on or near the bus, Uka approached one of the men for a cigarette, prosecutors said. He confirmed they were U.S. Air Force members en route to Afghanistan, then "turned around, put the magazine that had been concealed in his backpack into his pistol, and cocked the weapon," the indictment read.
He first shot unarmed Alden in the back of the head, the indictment alleged. He then boarded the vehicle shouting "Allahu Akbar" Arabic for "God is great" and shot and killed Cuddeback, who was the driver, before firing at others.
He wounded two others one victim has lost sight in one eye permanently before his gun jammed and he fled, prosecutors said. The shooter was then chased down and caught.
Some of the American airmen are expected to testify at the trial. At least one relative of the victims Cuddeback's mother has joined the trial as a co-plaintiff.