Pinellas Park man accused of bomb plot | News
Pinellas Park, Florida -- A Pinellas Park man is accused of planning to attack crowded Tampa locations -- including night clubs -- with a car bomb, assault rifle and other explosives.
Sami Osmakac, 25, was arrested Saturday night. He is charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. A federal judge ordered him held without bond during his first court appearance Monday afternoon. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
READ: Sami Osmakac's criminal complaint (PDF)
Osmakac is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the former Yugoslavia (what is now Kosovo).
Officials say no one else has been arrested in the case.
Federal officials say Osmakac was closely monitored by law enforcement officials for several months. The explosives and firearms that he allegedly sought and attempted to use were rendered inoperable by law enforcement and posed no threat to the public.
Multiple attacks planned on civilian targets
According to the complaint affidavit, the FBI received information in September 2011 from a confidential source, indicating that Osmakac had asked for flags that represent al-Qaeda. In November, Osmakac and the FBI's confidential source identified potential targets in Tampa, where Osmakac intended on carrying out violent attacks.
The source eventually directed Osmakac to an undercover FBI employee for assistance in getting firearms and explosives.
The complaint alleges Osmakac met with the undercover on December 21, and stated that he wished to acquire an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and an explosive belt.
Osmakac also allegedly asked the undercover employee whether he/she could build bombs that could be placed in three different vehicles and detonated remotely, near where Osmakac would conduct a follow-up attack using the other weapons he requested. Osmakac also allegedly said that he wanted the explosive belt constructed to kill people.
Investigators say Osmakac wanted to obtain a hotel room, park the vehicle with the bomb in it at his target, leave the area, detonate the car bomb, and then retrieve the weapons and explosives from the hotel room.
Among Osmakac's alleged bomb targets were night clubs in Ybor City, the Operations Center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Ybor City, and a business in the South Tampa area.
As part of the second portion of his planned attack, Osmakac reportedly told the undercover that, after the car bomb had detonated, he wanted to use the explosive belt to "get in somewhere where there's a lot of people" and take hostages. He allegedly stated that he would then make demands of the FBI to release some prisoners.
"Once I have this ... they [law enforcement] can take me in five million pieces," Osmakac allegedly stated in an apparent reference to the explosive belt that would be attached to his waist.
When the undercover allegedly told Osmakac could change his mind and back out of the plot, Osmakac immediately shook his head and said, "We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?"
On January 7, FBI agents arrested Osmakac after he took possession of the explosive devices and firearms, that had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement.
Attacks would be "payback"
The complaint alleges that, shortly prior to his arrest, Osmakac made a video of himself explaining his motives for carrying out the planned violent attack.
In the video, Osmakac allegedly stated his belief that Muslims' "blood" was more valuable than that of people who did not believe in Islam. He also stated he wanted "payback" for wrongs he felt were done to Muslims.
There is no indication that Osmakac planned to attack the Republican National Convention, which will be held in Tampa in August, federal authorities said.
"We are grateful for the Muslim community's continued support," FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Ibison said in a press release. "This incident clearly demonstrated how citizens can help law enforcement keep our neighborhoods and our nation safe."
Also in a statement Monday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said of the arrest, "This is a great example of our intelligence operation, with many different agencies of government and the community, working together to prevent a terrorist attack."
Homeland Security: Targets differ from past plots
An FBI/Department of Homeland Security bulletin notes Osmakac's plans differed a bit from other recent homegrown extremism plots.
While other recent disrupted plots "primarily targeted government and military facilities and personnel," the bulletin says Osmakac looked to attack less secure civilian targets, due to the "potential for a greater number of casualties."
The bulletin also notes some of Osmakac's alleged tactics had not been seen before: he planned to take hostages to achieve a specific goal of releasing Muslim prisoners, and then take his own life by detonating his explosives vest near arresting officers.
2011 arrest after religious brawl
Tampa Police say Osmakac was previously arrested in April 2011 after getting into a physical altercation with another person during a religious debate outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
According to the arrest report, members of the Westboro Baptist Church were outside the venue, protesting a Lady Gaga concert that night.
The controversial church has stirred widespread outrage with raucous demonstrations at numerous events, including the funerals of U.S. military service members. The group contends God is punishing the military for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.
At one point Osmakac drove by the Westboro protesters wearing what appeared to be traditional Middle Eastern clothing. The protesters verbally berated him and the Muslim faith as he waited in traffic. Eventually he was able to drive away.
A short time later, Osmakac allegedly returned to the protesters on foot, and he engaged in an argument with them. A nearby officer conducting traffic tried to diffuse the situation, but Osmakac and one of the protesters got into a physical fight. The protester claimed Osmakac unprovokedly head-butted him.
Both men were charged with battery and released on their own recognizance. A few months later, Osmakac was arrested again, this time on failure to appear for the battery charges.
Video was later posted online showing the altercation:
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