Fatal Shooting at Frankfurt Airport German Investigators Suspect Islamist Motives behind Attack

German authorities are pursuing substantial evidence that the perpetrator of Wednesday's attack at Frankfurt Airport, which killed two American airmen, had links with Islamist groups in Germany. There is concern that additional attacks may be in the works.


By and Yassin Musharbash

Following initial investigations, security authorities in Germany are investigating whether Wednesday's shooting at Frankfurt Airport was a targeted attack on the US Army. They are also exploring whether US soldiers in Germany are at risk of further attacks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from security sources that the 21-year-old attacker got on to a bus which was carrying US soldiers and opened fire with a pistol. Two US airmen were killed and two wounded in the incident, which took place at 3:20 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

Initial reports that there had been an argument in the bus have not been confirmed, the authorities say. On the contrary, the results of the investigation so far point to a targeted attack by the assailant, who is from Kosovo and is reported to have worked at the airport. The shooter fired several times, police said. The suspect was arrested by federal police officers shortly after the attack and was questioned on Wednesday evening.

Investigators believe that the pistol jammed after the first shots were fired, otherwise the shooter would have fired again. After police overpowered the man in the airport, officers found a second magazine with bullets on his person, which the man apparently had not been able to use as a result of the problem with the weapon.

The weapon is currently being examined by experts. As well as the pistol, the suspect also had a knife on him, which he used to attack the police officers as they tried to arrest him. He was quickly disarmed, however.

Suspected May Have Worked at Frankfurt Airport

On Wednesday, the Associated Press and the news network CNN both identified the attacker as a 21-year-old Kosovar man called Arid U., citing information from Kosovo's interior minister, Bajram Rexhepi. The suspect reportedly comes from the city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo and lived in Frankfurt.

According to Arid U.'s family in Mitrovica, the young man was a practicing Muslim. His uncle said that Arid U. worked at Frankfurt Airport. Investigators believe he may have previously observed US soldiers being transported from the airport to become familiar with the army's procedures.

SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from sources in German security forces and from the US authorities that there is now substantial evidence linking the attacker to Islamist groups in Germany. In the US, there are fears that the man could be part of a terrorist cell which may now be planning further attacks on American targets in Germany. Sources in the Pentagon expressed great concern about the incident.

On Thursday morning, Germany's Federal Prosecutor General, the country's highest investigative authority, took over the investigation. The office is responsible for terrorist attacks, meaning that there is no longer any doubt that the authorities suspect a terrorist motive behind the incident.

Suspicious Facebook Page

German authorities have found a profile on the social networking site Facebook which they believe could belong to the alleged perpetrator. On the Facebook page, the young man makes little attempt to conceal his Islamist beliefs.

As the motto of his Facebook page, Arid U. has selected a saying by the Muslim conqueror Khalid bin Al Walid, a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad: "May the eyes of the cowards never sleep." Among the websites that the man lists as his favorites are some that have clear Islamist leanings, including one called "Rule of Islam." On his Facebook "wall," he has linked to a jihadist fighting song, and one of the comments on a friend's posting refers to "these miserable kuffar (infidels)." The last entry is dated Monday evening.

Although elements of Islamist ideas can be clearly identified on the page, not all the contents are related to militant Islam; there are also posts that indicate he was a keen player of computer games. In view of the crime for which the man was allegedly responsible, where people were shot at close range, one posting seems almost ironic. In August 2010, the owner of the Facebook page apparently completed an online questionnaire regarding which weapon suited him best. The answer was the M82 Barrett sniper rifle.

German authorities are currently evaluating the suspect's social milieu and other evidence, including the Facebook page. It is not yet confirmed that the page belongs to the suspected attacker, but authorities are assuming it does, according to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE.


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