The attacker who killed two British-based US airmen and wounded two others at Frankfurt airport appears to have been motivated by Islamic extremism, say German prosecutors.
They said in a statement today that “because of the circumstances there is a suspicion that it was an Islamist motivated act”.
The federal prosecutors took over the case early in the day and are working with Frankfurt and federal police, as well as American investigators.
The alleged suspect in Wednesday’s shooting is in custody and is to appear in court later in the day.
He has been identified as a 21-year-old ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, whose family described him as a devout Muslim.
The attack the first on American forces in Germany in a quarter of a century, was described by US president Barack Obama as an “outrageous act”.
The attacker got into an argument with airmen, based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, outside their military bus before opening fire, killing the bus driver and one other serviceman and wounding two others, one of whom was in a life-threatening condition.
The suspect then fled into the airport terminal, where he was grabbed and disarmed by two police officers and a US airman.
The victims, part of a group of about a dozen members of an air force military police and base security unit, had just arrived from Lakenheath, home to the 48th Fighter Wing, the US Air Force said.
They were waiting outside Terminal 2 to be driven to nearby Ramstein air base, which is often used as a logistical hub for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two wounded airmen were taken to a hospital.
“I’m saddened and I’m outraged by this attack,” Mr Obama said at the White House. “I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place.”
Kosovo’s interior minister Bajram Rexhepi identified the suspect as Arif Uka, a Kosovo citizen from the northern town of Mitrovica.
In Mitrovica, family members identified him as Arid Uka, saying he was born and educated in Germany where his family moved about 40 years ago. German police, however, said he was born in Kosovo.
An uncle, Rexhep Uka, said the suspect’s grandfather was a religious leader at a mosque in a village near Mitrovica.
A cousin, Behxhet Uka, said he spoke to the suspect’s father, Murat Uka, several times by telephone from Frankfurt after the family was contacted by Kosovo police. The father said all he knew was that his son did not come home from his job at the airport yesterday.
Behxet Uka said he would be shocked if Arid Uka was behind the shooting, saying that like the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians, the family was pro-American.
The northern town of Mitrovica is best known for the ethnic division between majority ethnic Albanians and minority Serbs. The former mining town has also been the focus of reports that it breeds Islamic extremists.
Western intelligence reports have said the region could be a recruitment ground for Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or US cities and carry out terrorist attacks.
The Kosovo government said it was “deeply moved” by what it branded as “a monstrous act” committed by a citizen of Kosovo origin.