February 10, 2012 / 2:30 PM / 6 years ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Germany jails Kosovan for life for U.S. airmen murder

(Corrects to show attack was March 2011, not 2010)

By Jonathan Gould and Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT, Feb 10 (Reuters) - A German court found a Kosovo-Albanian man guilty on Friday of killing two U.S. airmen in a gun attack at Frankfurt airport in March 2011 and wounding two others, sentencing him to life in prison.

Arid Uka, a 22-year-old who was raised in Germany, has confessed to the attack and said he acted after seeing a video apparently showing U.S. soldiers raping Muslim women.

Wearing a black hooded top, he smiled when police removed the handcuffs after bringing him into the Frankfurt courtroom, then sat with eyes downcast as Judge Thomas Sagebiel reading out a detailed chronology of the attack.

The judge cited aggravating circumstances, which is likely to prevent Uka from being released early after serving 15 years.

"Yes, this is indeed the first Islamic-motivated terror strike to have happened in Germany," said Judge Sagebiel.

The shooting last year shocked Americans. U.S. President Barack Obama said he was outraged and the government of Kosovo, where Uka was born, also condemned the attack.

Fears it might be part of a militant plot were allayed when German prosecutors said he was likely to have been working alone, although he refused to tell the judge where he obtained the 9mm pistol used in the shooting.

In a statement to the court in August, Uka said he had been influenced by lies and propaganda, appearing to show some remorse. "Looking back, I don't understand myself," he said.

Federal prosecutor Jochen Weingarten said during the trial that Uka deserved a stiff penalty because of the ferocity of his attack. Uka would have killed more people had his pistol not jammed, with 11 other servicemen on the bus, he said.

The court in Germany's financial capital Frankfurt heard how the gunman walked up to airmen boarding a U.S. Army bus and asked one of them for a cigarette.

After establishing that they were heading to 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.

Uka told the court his family was not particularly religious. He did not have many friends and played computer games a lot, he said.

His defence attorney had said her client was no terrorist and asked for his youth, confession and a difficult upbringing to be taken into account in the sentencing. (Reporting by Jonathan Gould and Christoph Steitz; writing by Stephen Brown; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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