BERLIN — German prosecutors said Thursday that they have filed murder charges against a 21-year-old Kosovo Albanian in the slaying of two U.S. airmen outside Frankfurt's airport and alleged he was inspired by online jihadist videos to kill Americans.
Arid Uka, who grew up in Germany, was charged July 4 with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with the March 2 attack. If convicted, he faces a possible life sentence.
Authorities have said that Uka confessed shortly after his capture at the airport to wanting to kill American troops because of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
According to the indictment, Uka was radicalized over time by jihadist propaganda he saw on the Internet, and the night before the act had watched a video that purported to show American atrocities in Afghanistan; it was actually a clip from a film. The investigation turned up no connections with any terrorist organization.
"He was a single person acting alone radicalized through jihadi Internet propaganda," prosecutors' spokesman Marcus Koehler told The Associated Press. "That shows, in the opinion of the federal prosecutors office, how dangerous jihadist propaganda on the Internet is."
Uka's attorney, Jens Joerg Hoffmann, said his client gave detailed statements to authorities and does not dispute the facts of the indictment.
No pleas are entered in Germany, meaning when the trial begins the prosecutors will still have to lay out the facts for the court. Hoffmann said the best Uka can hope for because of his cooperation is for the judges to allow for the possibility of an early release after he serves 15 years.
"There are ample hard facts, ample witnesses, ample everything – what's there to dispute?" he told the AP in a telephone interview from Frankfurt.
The video Uka saw the day before the crime, entitled "what was done to our sisters," was actually a short clip taken from the 2007 Brian De Palma anti-war film "Redacted," Hoffmann said.
According to the indictment, 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 on an afternoon flight and followed them to where a U.S. Air Force bus was waiting to pick them up.
After 16 servicemen, including the driver, were on or near the bus, Uka approached one of the men for a cigarette as a pretext to get closer, prosecutors said.
"After the person confirmed that these were members of the U.S. Air Force on their way to Afghanistan, the accused 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 Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, a 25-year-old from South Carolina, 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 the driver, 21-year-old Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback of Vigrinia, before firing at others on board.
He wounded two others – both of whom recovered though one who lost sight in one eye permanently – before his gun jammed and he fled, prosecutors said.
He was chased by an airman and apprehended by two German federal police officers.
His trial is expected to begin in Frankfurt near the end of the summer, Hoffmann said.
Federal prosecutors in New York City brought charges against Uka last month, but the criminal complaint charging him with murder, attempted murder and firearms counts is not expected to have an effect on the German proceedings.