A LONE gunman killed two US airmen and seriously injured two more on Wednesday in an attack on their bus at Frankfurt airport in Germany, local authorities and the US military said.
“I am saddened and outraged by this attack,” US President Barack Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. “We will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place.” “German authorities have the shooter in custody. The incident is currently under investigation,” the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) said.
“The names of the deceased are being withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin.” The air force personnel had just flown in from Britain and were about to travel to Ramstein airbase near Frankfurt, German police said. Authorities in Germany said the alleged assailant was a 21-year-old originally from Muslim-majority Kosovo in southeastern Europe living in Frankfurt.
Police said it was so far unclear what his motives were. Kosovo’s government condemned the shooting, highlighting strong US support for its declaration of independence from Serbia.
“This horrible case is an individual act against civilised values and against the traditions of the people of Kosovo,” the government said in press release. Expressing its condolences to the United States, the government said Kosovo would be “forever” grateful “for strong (US) support to the people of Kosovo” after its independence declaration in 2008.
The incident came a month after Germany’s authorities had announced that additional security measures imposed late last year in response to indications of an imminent “terrorist” attack were set to be gradually scaled back. A police source in Pristina said that the suspect was an ethnic Albanian from the town of Mitrovica in the north of the disputed territory.
“We do not have a file on him, which would mean that he has not had any problems with the law until now. But we are still checking,” the source said.
He was seized after the shootings by German police inside the Terminal Two building at the airport, one of Europe’s busiest, Boris Rhein, interior minister of the western German state of Hesse, told reporters at the scene. Police said he was armed with a handgun and reports said he also had a knife. It was unclear how many people were on the bus at the time of the incident.
Police spokesman Andre Sturmeit said the injured had been taken to a civilian hospital, but he was unable to give any information on their conditions. “The German government will do all it can to investigate what happened,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin as she expressed her condolences.
The scene was sealed off after the attack, an AFP reporter said, with the bus shielded from view by a screen. The German police and fire brigade were present, but no one from the US military police was visible. The US military has a number of major bases near Frankfurt, including Ramstein, which are used as hubs for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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-Qa’ida cell led by Mohammed Atta, the hijacker of the first plane to strike New York’s World Trade Center. 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.
The men from the Sauerland cell, named after the region where three of them were captured in September 2007, admitted to belonging to a “terrorist organisation”, plotting murder and conspiring for an explosives attack.
The four included two German converts to Islam, a Turkish citizen and a German of Turkish