Florida man charged with plotting attacks to avenge Muslims
A naturalized American citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia has been charged with plotting to use explosives against heavily populated areas as part of a campaign for vengeance for misdeeds he says were committed against Muslims, federal officials say.
Sami Osmakac, 25, of Pinellas Park, Fla., near Tampa, was arrested Saturday. On Monday, in his first appearance in federal court, he was charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was kept in custody after he waived a hearing and bond, said Amy Filjones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, in a telephone interview with The Times.
If convicted, Osmakac faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint, Osmakac, who was born in Kosovo, recorded an eight-minute video explaining why he was planning the attacks.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a hotel room, the document says, Osmakac describes Muslim blood as more valuable than that of those who are not adherents of Islam, and he says he wants “payback” for wrongs done to Muslims. He is holding a pistol and has an AK-47 behind him, according to the complaint.
In a statement, U.S. Atty. Robert E. O’Neill thanked all of those who worked on the investigation, including unnamed members of the Muslim community.
“This investigation was also predicated, in part, by assistance from the Muslim community,” O’Neill said without giving details. “I would like to thank them as well.”
According to the complaint, Osmakac was arrested after he allegedly bought inoperable explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent. The investigation began in September when a confidential source contacted federal authorities after Osmakac entered the source’s business looking to buy Al Qaeda flags, officials say. Later contacts between the two were recorded by law enforcement officials.
Two months later, Osmakac allegedly asked the source for help in obtaining firearms and explosives for an attack.
The source put Osmakac in touch with an undercover FBI employee who said he was willing to sell automatic weapons, grenades and an explosive belt. Osmakac gave the undercover agent a $500 down payment for the weapons, officials say.
In a Jan. 1 meeting, officials say, Osmakac told the undercover agent he wanted to bomb nightclubs, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and a business in Tampa. He said he wanted to detonate a car bomb and use the explosive belt to go somewhere “where there’s a lot of people” and even take hostages.
Osmakac also suggested he would bomb bridges that link Tampa to neighboring Pinellas County, according to officials.
During the Jan. 1 meeting, officials say, the undercover FBI employee noted that Osmakac could change his mind and back out of the plot.
According to the complaint, Osmakac shook his head no and said, “We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?”
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Sami Osmakac, 25, has been charged with plotting to attack crowded locations in the Tampa, Fla., area. Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office