Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa terror suspect grew distant, penned violent rap lyrics

The Kosovo-born American citizen accused of plotting bomb attacks around Tampa was a loner who had grown increasingly radical in his Muslim faith and once wrote rap lyrics about killing Jews, according to relatives and friends.

Those who know Sami Osmakac said he mostly kept to himself while attending high school in Pinellas County. He loved rap music and rapped about bombs and killing in a song he made with a friend, according to one classmate.

Family members told the Associated Press that Osmakac, 25, was born in the village of Lubizde in Kosovo, a tiny hamlet of scattered houses near the Cursed Mountains that divide Kosovo from Albania. The area is home to many adherents to Sufism, a mystical Islamic order whose members often pray over the tombs of revered saints.

Difficult living conditions and simmering ethnic intolerance sent his family searching for prosperity elsewhere. They moved to what are now Croatia and Bosnia, eventually fleeing to Germany and then the United States.

Osmakac was "a quiet and fun boy," said his aunt Time Osmankaj. She said his family regularly sent money home to relatives left behind. The family returned to Kosovo for summer visits. In recent years, she said they noticed a change in Sami: He grew a beard, donned religious garments, and was frequently accompanied by two devout Muslims from Albania and two from Bosnia. Authorities in Kosovo have said he used recent visits to meet with Islamic radicals.

Avni Osmakac told a Tampa television station that his brother tried to travel to Saudi Arabia last year to study Islam, but never got farther than Turkey due to visa problems. Sami wanted to become an imam and teach Islam in the Middle East, his brother said.

Osmakac's family settled in Pinellas Park, where his father opened a bakery. Osmakac attended at least two high schools and was mostly a loner, classmate Alan Stokling wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

"We were just the 'ghosts' at Lakewood High School," he wrote. "He was one of those government rebel types. … All of our conversations consisted of him talking about how stupid everybody at the school was. Not just the students, but the teachers, the people who financed institutions like it."

Stokling said the two did make a rap song together using a friend's studio. They recorded their parts separately. Stokling said Osmakac rapped about killing Jews.

"The weirdest ad libs I'd ever heard," Stokling said. "They were so beyond the realm of what was accepted back then as far as what was a consistency in the realm of a rap song that it was comical."

The two discussed religion only once, when Osmakac asked about Stokling's religion. When Stokling said he was a Christian, "He got kind of quiet then started laughing to himself under his breath in a smug fashion. In his own mind he seemed to be an elitist. That's the vibe I got from him."

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Published: 01/20/18