U.S. Prosecutors Charge German Man with Murder of Airmen at Frankfurt Airport
21-year-old Arid Uka, who is also known as Abu Reyyan, was charged in Manhattan with five counts, including two counts of Murder of an Officer of the United States for the deaths of U.S. airmen Zachary Ryan Cuddeback and Nicholas Alden.
The attack happened on March 2 when approximately 15 U.S. Air Force personnel arrived at Frankfurt airport. They had just retrieved their luggage and walked to a U.S. Armed Forces bus which was waiting in the vicinity of the airport.
As the service members proceeded to load their bags onto the bus and board the vehicle, an individual who was later identified as Uka approached one of the witnesses who was waiting to board the bus. According to the criminal complaint, Uka asked – in English – if the passengers on the bus were Americans.
When the witness told Uka that they were in fact Americans, he allegedly commented that it appeared that the passengers were soldiers. In response, the witness indicated before boarding the bus that the passengers on the bus were members of the U.S. Air Force.
Another witness told investigators, according to the complaint, that Uka then approached Alden from behind. “Once Uka was in close proximity to Nicholas Alden, Uka raised his arm level with Nicholas Alden’s ear,” according to a detective with the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the New York City Police Department. “[The witness] heard a gunshot and saw Nicholas Alden collapse to the ground. Nicholas Alden had been shot in the back of the head and was killed.”
Seconds later, Uka allegedly boarded the bus and pointed the gun at Cuddeback, who was seated in the driver’s seat of the bus. “Uka shot Zachary Ryan Cuddeback in the head at close range,” the detective said in the complaint. “Zachary Ryan Cuddeback was killed.”
According to the complaint, Uka then walked down the aisle of the bus and repeatedly fired his gun while shouting what sounded like Allahu Akbar, an Arabic expression which means ‘God is great.’ During that time, Uka allegedly shot and injured two other U.S. Air Force service members who were on the bus.
“Uka subsequently stopped near Witness 3,” according to the complaint. “Witness 3 made eye contact with Uka. Uka pointed his gun at the head of Witness 3 and again said the phrase that sounded like ‘Halla Akbar.’ Uka pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire. Uka repeated the phrase that sounded like ‘Halla Akbar’ and pulled the trigger again. The gun did not fire; it had apparently jammed.”
After the gun apparently jammed, Uka ran off the bus in an attempt to flee the scene. “Witness 3 ran off the bus after Uka. Witness 3 chased Uka into the airport, and through portions of it. While running after Uka, Witness 3 screamed for the police,” the complaint said. “Uka was eventually surrounded by German law enforcement officers. Witness 3 saw Uka holding a knife, and saw German law enforcement officers place Uka under arrest.”
Uka has now been charged in the United States with two counts of Murder of an Officer of the United States, one count of Attempted Murder of Officers of the United States, one count of Use of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, and one count of Violence at an International Airport.
Although Uka was not part of a terrorist organization, German prosecutors have said he carried out the attack in retaliation for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama previously said he was “saddened” and “outraged” by the attack. “I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost. Michelle and I have their family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers, and we are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured,” Obama said.
“I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place,” the president added. “And I’m working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice. [..] This is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making all around the world to keep us safe, and the dangers that they face all around the globe.”