INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 706
Preliminary evidence in the case relating to the death due to shooting at the Frankfurt airport on March 2,2011, of two US airmen, one of them a bus driver, indicates that it might have been the act of an angry loner and not that of any jihadi organization such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or the so-called German Taliban, which refers to a group of German converts to Islam trained by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
2. It was known in the past that these organizations had been focusing on German as well as US military targets in Germany, but the German intelligence and Police had managed to detect and neutralize their plans in time before the conspiracy could be carried out.
3.The German intelligence and police, who are generally well-informed and alert, seemed to have been taken by surprise on March 2 because the assailant came from a community which had in the past not come to notice for association with any of the organizations mentioned above. The 21-year-old suspect, whose name has been given as Arid Urka, is an Albanian Muslim from the town of Mitrovica in the Kosovo area, who had reportedly been living in Germany. He held a German passport in addition to an old passport of undivided Yugoslavia.
4.According to media reports, the two US airmen killed belonged to the military police of the US Air Force and were part of a unit generally stationed in the UK which was being moved either to Iraq or Afghanistan for deployment via Germany. It is not clear whether it was merely an opportunistic attack by the gunman on a group of US airmen boarding a bus at the airport without his being aware of the fact that they were bound for Iraq or Afghanistan or whether it was a targeted killing of US military personnel going to Iraq or Afghanistan.
5. Germany plays an active role in the NATO operations in Afghanistan and the conspiracies detected in the past were triggered off by anger over the role of Germany and the US in Afghanistan. The German authorities initially treated the incident as an act of anger following an altercation between the US airmen and the gunman as they were boarding the bus. They subsequently started looking into the possibility of its being an act of terrorism because of some evidence of the gunman allegedly visiting jihadi sites in the Internet.
6. The investigation seems to be presently confined to examining whether the attack could have been Afghanistan-related. There is no indication of any suspicion of its being Libya-related. The Libyan intelligence and terrorists linked to the Libyan intelligence had operated in Germany in the 1980s as indicated by an explosion in a West Berlin discotheque in 1985 that killed some US military personnel and the bombing of a Pan-Am aircraft originating from Frankfurt in 1988 ( the Lockerbie incident). The West Berlin incident led to the US bombing of Libya in 1986 and the Lockerbie incident to the arrest and trial of suspected Libyan intelligence officers and the payment of huge compensation by the Libyan Government to the relatives of the passengers and crew killed.
7. Since the 1990s, Libya had totally cut off its past links with terrorism----either of the Palestinian or Al Qaeda kind --- and had effectively kept Al Qaeda and its allied organizations out of its territory. It is very unlikely that at a time when the Gadaffi regime is facing mounting international pressure because of the uprising against it in Eastern Libya, it would add to the anger of the West by dabbling in terrorism once again.
8. Muslims of Kosovo origin had not come to notice in the past for association with Afghanistan or Iraq based organizations because of their dependence on the US for making themselves free from Serbia. The act of the lone gunman of Kosovo origin would require detailed investigation before satisfactory conclusions could be drawn. For the present, it could only be characterized as a possible terrorist incident of unknown inspiration. (3-3-11)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )