February 10, 2012 / 1:20 PM / 8 years ago

Germany jails Kosovan for life for killing U.S. airmen

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A Kosovo-Albanian man who killed two U.S. airmen and wounded two others in a gun attack at Frankfurt airport last March was sentenced to life in prison by German court on Friday.

Defendant Arid Uka awaits sentencing during his trial at the higher regional court in Frankfurt February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Arid Uka, a 22-year-old who was raised in Germany, had 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 read out a detailed chronology of the attack.

“Yes, this is indeed the first Islamic-motivated terror strike to have happened in Germany,” the judge said.

The court in Germany’s financial capital 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 a 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’s defense counsel Jens Joerg Hoffmann said after he was found guilty that he would appeal against the sentence within a week.

“We have to appeal,” Hoffmann told Reuters. “We think it was not a jihadist attack, it was rage. He ran amok.”

The judge had cited aggravating circumstances, meaning he will spend more than 15 years in jail. In Germany those sentenced to life are released after 15 years. The aggravating circumstances mean he will be in jail for a least 18 years.

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

But 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.

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

The defense had argued that their client was no terrorist and asked for his youth, confession and a difficult upbringing to be taken into account in the sentencing.

Uka is likely to face deportation to Kosovo if he is released from jail, the defense said.

Reporting by Jonathan Gould and Christoph Steitz; Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Alison Williams

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