Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Frankfurt: Kosovan opened fire on US airmen, shouting “Allah Akbar”

A bullet hole is seen in the window of the driver seat of a U.S. Army bus outside the airport in Frankfurt March 2, 2011. A gunman shot dead two U.S. soldiers at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday

A man whose office is near the site of the shooting said it was an area where buses load arriving passengers. Speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his business, he said witnesses told him that the gunman first talked to the military personnel to find out who they were and then opened fire, shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

The suspect argued with the airmen before shooting one who was standing in the open door and the driver, Mr. Füllhardt said.

BERLIN — Two United States airmen were killed and two injured on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire on an American military bus at the Frankfurt airport, according to American military officials in Europe.

In Washington, President Obama said he was “saddened and outraged” by the attack. “We will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place,” he said, “and in working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

The suspected gunman, who is in custody, is 21-year-old Kosovar who lives in Frankfurt, according to a city police spokesman, Manfred Füllhardt. The names of the dead were being withheld pending notification of the families, the officials said.

The attack occurred outside Terminal 2 at the airport, one of Europe’s busiest, which has been under increased security in recent months following warnings that Germany would be the target of terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the shooting, the area was rapidly cordoned off, but the terminal continued operations.

Mr. Füllhardt said the busload of airmen had just arrived from England and had boarded the bus to go to the American military base at Ramstein, which lies few dozen miles to the southwest of the Frankfurt Airport.

The suspect argued with the airmen before shooting one who was standing in the open door and the driver, Mr. Füllhardt said.

The Ramstein base is one of several major United States military installations in the Frankfurt region that serve as logistical hubs for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. American service members frequently use the Frankfurt airport, either to head to those bases or en route to others.

Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about the attack in Berlin, according to Reuters, saying: “We don’t know the details but I would like to express how upset I am. We have to do everything we can to find out what happened.”

The state interior minister, Boris Rhein, told reporters at the scene that security had been tightened and investigators were trying to ascertain exactly what happened.

A man whose office is near the site of the shooting said it was an area where buses load arriving passengers. Speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his business, he said witnesses told him that the gunman first talked to the military personnel to find out who they were and then opened fire, shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

In 1985, a bomb exploded at a crowded departure lounge at the Frankfurt Airport, killing a man and two children and injuring 42 people, four seriously.

Judy Dempsey reported from Berlin and Elisabeth Bumiller from Washington. Susanne Sperling contributed reporting from Frankfurt, Victor Homola from Berlin, and Jack Ewing from Europe.

NYT

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