Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Terrorism suspect had bigger plans, recordings suggest

TAMPA — The man accused of plotting to bomb a bar and a casino in Tampa told an undercover FBI agent that he had plans for a larger-scale attack, one that would bring the Tampa Bay area's economy to a halt and one that never came to fruition.

In a recorded conversation that took place in January 2012, days before his arrest, Sami Osmakac told the undercover agent who was posing as a weapons dealer that he had originally hoped to enlist a group of men to blow up five bridges in the area. He named the Gandy Bridge, the Courtney Campbell Causeway and the Howard Frankland Bridge, all major arteries connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, in the recording played for jurors in Osmakac's terrorism trial Thursday.

"This will crush the whole economy. They'll really be terrified," he told the agent, unaware that he was being recorded.

But the Kosovo-born American citizen, who was something of an outcast in the local Muslim community, never persuaded enough people to carry out the attack. "Nobody wants to do it," he lamented.

He had been kicked out of two area mosques and had turned against their leaders who were, to his mind, insufficiently Muslim.

"I'm more worried about people from masjid (mosque) seeing us than the kuffar (infidels)," he told the agent, referring to law enforcement officials.

Osmakac, 27, was charged with possessing an unregistered AK-47 and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Jurors were treated to an afternoon of show and tell on Thursday, as prosecutors passed around the grenades and suicide belt that they say Osmakac bought from the undercover agent. They also were taken to a separate room, where they were shown the 100-pound car bomb that prosecutors say he planned to detonate outside of MacDinton's, an Irish bar in South Tampa. None of the weapons were operative, though Osmakac was unaware of that.

Attorneys for Osmakac say that he was entrapped by the FBI and would never have carried out the attacks without the agency's prodding.

In the recordings played Thursday, he talked excitedly, and somewhat nervously, about the prospect of terrorizing Americans.

"You think Hurricane Katrina was bad, wait until Hurricane al-Qaida comes. It's brewing right now," he told the agent hours before his arrest.

But he made clear to the agent that he didn't know how to use the AK-47, grenades and car bomb. He volunteered to go the library to research the gun.

"I can show you how everything works," the agent assured him.

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Published: 01/20/18