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Muslim group and law enforcement commend Tampa's Muslim community for help in terror arrest

Sami Osmakac

American Muslim groups and federal law enforcement praised the Tampa, FL, Muslim-American community’s help in foiling a man’s plot to attack night clubs and law enforcement buildings in Tampa, FL, with vehicle-borne bombs, assault rifles and anexplosive belt.

The FBI arrested 25-year-old Pinellas Park, FL resident Sami Osmakac on Jan. 7 for the alleged plot after a sting operation.

Robert O’Neill, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said federal agents arrested Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia, on the night of Jan. 7. Among Osmakac’s alleged bomb targets were night clubs in the Ybor City area of Tampa, the Operations Center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Ybor City and a business in the South Tampa area of Tampa, said the FBI.

Osmakac was charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) and was slated to make an initial appearance in federal court on Jan. 9.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, said the FBI.

Osmakac was arrested after a federal law enforcement sting operation that lasted several months, said the agency, in which federal operatives provided him with inoperative explosives and guns.

In making the arrest, O’Neill thanked the local Muslim community for their help in the investigation and Muslim groups cautiously commended the Tampa Muslim community for their assistance.

“The perseverance and diligence of law enforcement caused this investigation to conclude in a successful manner,” said O’Neill. “This investigation was also predicated, in part, by assistance from the Muslim community. I would like to thank them as well.”

“The Tampa FBI Division has always considered its relationships with regional community groups throughout Central and Southwest Florida extremely important.  In this case, we are grateful for the Muslim community’s continued support,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Ibison. “This incident clearly demonstrated how citizens can help law enforcement keep our neighborhoods and our nation safe,” he said.

“Despite the gravity of this incident, we are relieved to know that the increased awareness of both citizens and government officials played a part in keeping our nation safe,” said Alejandro Beutel, Government and Policy Analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council(MPAC) in a Jan. 9 statement concerning the arrest. “If these charges are true, today’s arrest is the latest indication of the positive role Muslim Americans play in preventing attacks against our fellow citizens.” MPAC cautioned that Osmakac is innocent until proven guilty in court.

According to court documents, the FBI got a tip from a confidential informant in September who said Osmakac had asked for Al Qaeda flags. According to the FBI, in November, Osmakac and the informant discussed and identified potential targets in Tampa where he intended on carrying out violent attacks. Osmakac also allegedly asked for help in getting guns and explosives for the attacks. The informant said that they knew someone who might be able to provide firearms and explosives and introduced Osmakac to an undercover FBI agent. 

According to the FBI, Osmakac met with the undercover agent face-to-face in mid-December and said he wanted to get an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and an explosive belt.  In a subsequent meeting, Osmakac allegedly provided the agent with a $500 down payment for an AK-47, multiple homemade explosive grenades and the explosive belt. 

According to the charges, Osmakac also asked whether the undercover agent could build bombs that could be put in three different vehicles and detonated remotely, near where Osmakac would conduct a follow-up attack using the other weapons he requested.  The agent said they could possibly provide explosives for one vehicle.  Osmakac also allegedly said that he wanted an explosive belt constructed to kill people, said the FBI.

During another meeting with the undercover agent on New Year’s Day, Osmakac allegedly further described his attack plans by saying he 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. 

As part of the second portion of his attack, Osmakac told the undercover FBI agent that after the car bomb was 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.  According to the criminal complaint, when discussing law enforcement officers that might respond to the scene, Osmakac allegedly stated, “once I have this . . . they can take me in five million pieces” in an apparent reference to the explosive belt that would be attached to his waist.

During the New Year’s Day meeting, the undercover FBI agent told Osmakac that he could change his mind and back out of the plot, but according to the charging documents, Osmakac immediately shook his head in the negative and stated, “We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?”

FBI agents arrested Osmakac after he took possession of the explosive devices and firearms that had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement.  The documents also allege he made a video of himself explaining his motives for carrying out the planned violent attack just before his arrest.