Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

YouTube videos gives glimpse of terror suspect's beliefs

TAMPA — Sami Osmakac viewed life as an unending battle against infidels.

Osmakac, 25, the Pinellas Park man arrested Saturday and accused of plotting terror attacks in Tampa, appears in a half-dozen or so videos on YouTube. The videos are angry, defiant and filled with complaints about nonbelievers and the evils of the secular world.

In one video recorded on a Tampa street, Osmakac argued with a group of Christians about religion. The argument ends with a man telling Osmakac, "We love you, man, in the name of Jesus."

"I don't love you," Osmakac said. "I don't want your love, you infidel."

It's a glimpse into the mind of a man accused by federal authorities of attempting to use a device of mass destruction against a shifting list of targets in Tampa — the Hillsborough sheriff's operations center, an Irish pub, bridges and nightclubs.

The plot was foiled when Osmakac tried to get weapons and explosives, including a car bomb, from an undercover FBI agent.

Ahmed Bedier, founder of a nonprofit group promoting Muslim participation in the political process, said the videos give a taste of Osmakac's anger. Bedier said Osmakac had threatened him several times over political philosophy. "He is not a reasonable person," Bedier said. "He doesn't listen to anyone. He thinks everyone is the enemy."

Tampa Bay's Muslim community on Tuesday continued to deal with the fallout from Osmakac's arrest. Community leaders say Osmakac was an outcast, viewed by Muslims with suspicion and distaste.

Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Tampa chapter, said he no longer has concerns about the possibility Osmakac may have been entrapped by the FBI.

"It doesn't look like something we would pursue," said Shibly, who emphasized the case was brought to the attention of the FBI by members of the Muslim community.

Osmakac's aunt, contacted in Kosovo by the Associated Press, said she was shocked by the charge against her nephew. Osmakac is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in present-day Kosovo.

"It felt very strange to hear what he was being accused of," Time Osmankaj said. "I don't believe he did what they accuse him of doing. There was no better kid around here."

U.S. officials are using a different spelling for his last name than the one used by his family.

Jasmin Hodzic, a Clearwater man who knows Osmakac, expressed similar surprise. Hodzic, Osmakac and a third man were issued a trespass warning in late 2010 by police at a Pinellas Park mosque. Police said they were intimidating others.

"I know him as a good guy," Hodzic said. Of Osmakac's YouTube videos, Hodzic said simply, "He preached."

The videos appear to have been recorded at a variety of Tampa Bay locations, though most were shot in Tampa. They occur at night and during the day, in front of a Baptist church, on a mosque's property, or just on the street. They appear to all have been recorded in the last two years.

Osmakac, always wearing the traditional headdress, is recorded by a friend, who in several videos switches places with Osmakac so he can also rail against infidels.

The theme of the videos is consistent, even if Osmakac's words are repetitive and often disjointed: Allah and Islam offer the only paths to salvation.

"Fight your desires for chasing women and money and expensive cars," Osmakac said in a 2010 video. "Do not become like animals — the infidels, the Christians, the Jews, the pagans, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the atheists. They're the worst of creation."

He talks in one video about the inadequacy of democracy. Any system of government that does not rule using the word of Allah is evil, Osmakac said.

"We don't accept democracy," he said. "We don't accept communism created by Karl Marx, Zionist Jews. We don't accept fascism, Nazism. … Whatever you call it, we don't accept it."

At one point, Osmakac tells Muslims they should not be worried by the disfavor of relatives angered at their devotion to Islam. Osmakac does not say if he speaks from experience.

"We don't care about what our families say," Osmakac said. "If I die, my own family, as much as they love me, will not remember me. … I might just become a picture … in a photo album."

Osmakac said they might come to re-evaluate him in death and say, "He actually was a good guy. We shouldn't have stressed him so much about following the truth."

The videos contain no overt threats against any person or group. In a Sept. 30 video shot in a grassy patch near downtown Tampa, Osmakac recalled a visit by unnamed "agents." He said one asked him why he hadn't become Americanized after coming to the United States at age 13.

Osmakac was insulted. "I told them, 'Because Allah saved me,' " he said.

Allah, Osmakac said, sees everything, and the infidels and the faithful both will one day be judged. "Next time, before you go out and do stupid things, think about what you're going to do," he said. "Everything you do, say, look at, think, you will be held accountable for everything. Fear Allah."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Reach William R. Levesque at [email protected] tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

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