August 31, 2011 / 8:52 AM / 8 years ago

Kosovan confesses to shooting U.S. airmen in Germany

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A 21-year-old Kosovo Albanian man confessed to shooting dead two U.S. airmen and wounding two more at Frankfurt airport in March, telling a packed German court Wednesday he was swayed by Islamist lies and could not undo what he had done.

Arid Uka (L) talks with his lawyer Michaela Roth as he arrives for the start of his trial at the higher regional court in Frankfurt August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

Arid Uka, who wore jeans, trainers and a long white shirt for the start of his trial, was charged with two counts of murder and three of attempted murder. He faces a life sentence.

Pausing to wipe away tears, Uka told the court he felt he had to act after he was shocked by a video the night before the attack that appeared to show U.S. soldiers raping Muslim women.

“I had to do something, I had these pictures in my head,” he said in halting but good German.

Shown a video similar to the one that inspired his actions, Uka covered his eyes with his hands and wiped his face with a tissue. Hanging his head over his desk, he then sobbed silently.

Although Uka was born in Kosovo, he went to school in Frankfurt. He said he had discussed religion and politics with an American friend.

Uka, who at times spoke so quietly an extra microphone had to be brought in, said he had been influenced by lies and propaganda and appeared to show some remorse. “Looking back, I don’t understand myself.”

He winced when slides were shown of the aftermath of the shooting. Some images seen by the court included graphic scenes, such as a funnel-shaped trail of blood over one of the seats in the bus where he opened fire.

Uka, working at the airport’s international postal centre when he fired on the airmen at point-blank range with a 9mm pistol, said some people viewed his actions as good but they were subject to the same “lies and propaganda that blinded me.”

The attack shocked U.S. citizens and U.S. President Barack Obama expressed outrage. German prosecutors believe Uka acted alone but he refused to tell the judge where he obtained the pistol.

Security was tight at the court in the western city of Frankfurt with police officers on standby around the entrance as crowds of people queued to enter the building.

Prosecutors have described how the gunman walked up to airmen boarding a U.S. Army bus and asked one of them for a cigarette.

After establishing the soldiers were heading to fight in Afghanistan, Uka shot the 25-year-old man in the back of the head, killing him, according to prosecutors.

He then boarded the bus, shouted Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) and shot dead a 21-year old-airman sitting in the driver’s seat. He wounded two others and pulled the trigger on a fifth target when his gun jammed, according to prosecutors.

“As far as we are concerned the suspect was acting upon a Jihadist motivation with the killing as a revenge act for the action of the U.S. in Afghanistan,” said Prosecutor Herbert Diemer.

Arid Uka (L) arrives with his lawyer Jens Joerg Hoffmann (R) for the start of his trial at the higher regional court in Frankfurt August 31, 2011. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

Uka said he didn’t have many friends and played a lot of computer games. His family was not particularly religious and did not regularly attend the mosque.

The defendant smiled at his brother in the public gallery as officials put handcuffs on him at the end of the session.

A panel of three judges will deliver the verdict at the end of the trial, scheduled to last until January. Witnesses, including some of the U.S. servicemen who escaped, will be called to give evidence in hearings which resume on September 15.

Reporting By Jonathan Gould and Reuters TV; Writing by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Matthew Jones

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