By Simon Morgan (AFP)


FRANKFURT — A German court sentenced a Kosovo man to life on Friday for killing two US soldiers and attempting to kill three more at Frankfurt airport last March in Germany’s first deadly jihadist attack.

Presiding judge Thomas Sagebiel said 22-year-old Arid Uka — who was born in Kosovo but brought up in Germany — was found guilty on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder when he opened fire on March 2 last year on a group of US soldiers on their way to serve in Afghanistan.

“The degree of guilt is particularly grave,” Sagebiel said, which means Uka is unlikely to be released early after 15 years.

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

Uka, wearing a brown fleeced hooded top and black jumper, initially appeared relaxed and even smiled occasionally as police removed the handcuffs after bringing him into the Frankfurt courtroom.

But throughout the 70-minute hearing, he showed no emotion and kept his eyes downcast as judge Sagebiel read out the verdict, as well as the reasons behind it and a detailed account of the attack.

US soldiers Nicholas Alden, 25, and Zachary Ryan Cuddeback, 21, were killed in the shooting. Two other soldiers were wounded.

Sagebiel told the court: “He would have shot at a third, but the weapon got jammed.”

The verdict had already been postponed twice since the trial opened with Uka apologising to his victims and their families.

“On March 2, I killed two people and opened fire on three others. Today I can’t understand myself how I could have acted this way,” he said.

He said he had been influenced by “lies” and “propaganda” after seeing a video on the Internet purporting to show US soldiers in Afghanistan raping a local woman.

Defence lawyer Michaela Roth had not contested Uka’s guilt but argued that extenuating circumstances should allow him to be eligible for release after 15 years in jail.

“A jihadist would never have asked for forgiveness as Arid Uka has done from the first day of his trial. On the contrary he would have been proud of himself,” Roth told the court earlier.

Roth also argued that the video had probably brought back a childhood trauma to Uka, who she said was molested at the age of six.

But judge Sagebiel quoted a psychiatric expert opinion which stated that neither the video nor the childhood trauma were of “any decisive relevance” to Uka’s actions.

While the accused, who was born in ethnically divided Mitrovica in northern Kosovo but who grew up in Frankfurt, was “an immature personality”, he suffered “no clinical personality disorders” and was “fully aware” of his actions at the time of the attack.

Neither had he been acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the judge said.

Sagebiel also said the court had found no evidence that suggested he had accomplices or had been to ideological and military training camps.

The brother of one of the murdered soldiers was present for the verdict and the judge concluded his statement by addressing the court’s “commiseration” to the victims’ families.

“The attack was not only cowardly and perfidious, but also damaged Germany’s reputation,” Sagebiel said.

The court “hoped that by our bringing the perpetrator to justice swiftly, you can find some comfort… and will not harbour any rancour towards Germany,” he said.

A “saddened and outraged” US President Barack Obama said the day of the killings that Washington would “spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place.”

Germany opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, and has never suffered an attack by Islamic extremists, but a number of suspected bomb plots have been uncovered.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were planned in part in the German port city of Hamburg by an Al-Qaeda cell led by Mohammed Atta, the hijacker of the first plane to strike New York’s World Trade Centre.

In March 2010 a German court jailed four Islamic militants who dreamed of “mounting a second September 11” for a thwarted plot to attack US soldiers and civilians in Germany.

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