Frankfurt gunman in US airmen killing kept radical company on Facebook
Arid Uka, who confessed to killing two US airmen at the Frankfurt airport Wednesday, had links with radical groups online but is believed to have acted on his own.
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"Website activity has become a much more important platform for those groups," says Petter Nesser, a specialist on jihadism in Western Europe at the Defense Research Establishment in Norway. "But even if they use the Internet to recruit, at some point there will be some face-to-face interaction."Skip to next paragraph
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German prosecutors have said they believe that Uka had made ties with radical Islamic groups online even though there does not appear to be any evidence yet that any one group inspired or instructed him to carry out the attack.
The shooting, says Mr. Nesser, shows that Jihadist networks "are still able to address, affect, and recruit young Muslims in Europe despite – and sometimes partly because of – increasing counterterrorism measures and the ongoing war in Afghanistan."
Thamm says the Internet has transformed the jihadi movement. These aren't just "military organization anymore, today it’s a movement, and whoever shares the ideology on the Internet belongs to the Al Qaeda organization," he says.
For instance, he says, the British citizens of Pakistani origin accused of plotting the London subway attack in 2005 were apparently radicalized through the Internet.
Some experts doubt that Uka acted completely on his own. "Terrorism is never completely homegrown," argues Nesser. "Terror cells are almost always a group phenomenon."
Kosavar community shocked
Uka appeared to have done little to attract the attention of German authorities before this week's shooting. His family had settled in Frankfurt amid the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In his home village of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, his grandfather had been a religious leader. In Germany, his family settled in Sosssenheim, an unassuming middle-class and multiethnic neighborhood in Frankfurt.
News of the shooting shocked Uka’s family and many Kosovo Albanians. "To do that to Americans? They’ve helped us enough," says Turan Sailu, who heads a Kosovar cultural center in the industrial city of Duisburg.
Kosovo has been among the most pro-America countries in the world since the US-led NATO air war in 1998 helped squelch the Serbian crackdown on Kosovars. Today, Pristina’s main streets are named for presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.
"This is not something you’d expect from an Albanian. There is really no political context for this," says Florian Bieber, an expert on the Balkans at the University of Gras. "The source of the radicalization must have been the German context."