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New details emerge in case of alleged plot to destroy Tampa Bay bridges, attack sheriff's facility

Sami Osmakac is accused of plotting terror attacks.
Published Mar. 14, 2014

TAMPA — Sami Osmakac thought four or five people in a fishing boat would be enough to take down several Tampa Bay bridges, according to federal court documents filed Wednesday.

An attack on the bridges would leave people terrified and bring the area to a halt for at least a month, he told an undercover agent.

"This area has millions, with Pinellas and Tampa ... has like two, three million people. They all, nobody's goin' to work," he said, according to a report filed with the court documents.

The August 2013 report from Evan Kohlmann, a private international terrorism consultant, is based on evidence provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office. It says Osmakac, who was accused in 2012 of plotting massive attacks in Tampa, has the traits of a "homegrown terrorist."

A motion filed Wednesday by defense attorney George Tragos calls Kohlmann's report speculative and asks that he not be allowed to testify. The report, which includes parts of recorded conversations between Osmakac and an undercover FBI agent, gives new details about the plan to attack bridges and a Hillsborough County sheriff's facility.

He thought he could take down at least five bridges with help from five people in a fishing boat, though he said "nobody wants to do it" and considered using a cell phone to detonate explosives, the report said.

Osmakac also wanted to assault a sheriff's operations center in Ybor City and kidnap people from the building, the report said. He had a desire to attack "army people" but said "their bases are so locked up, I have to, I have to do something else."

He talked about plans to bomb a South Tampa bar and shoot first responders, the report said. He showed the agent some planned targets, saying he had seen videos of preachers who "insulted God and the Prophet" while working near nightclubs on busy nights.

Osmakac planned to take hostages to exchange for imprisoned jihadist leaders, the report said. He vowed to shoot a hostage every 30 minutes unless the jihadists were released.

In the report, Kohlmann concludes Osmakac fits some of the characteristics of a "homegrown terrorist." The new defense motion argues the charges against Osmakac don't allege he was a terrorist. The prosecution has enough evidence with undercover recordings and witnesses "to prove the crime without the necessity of this 'smear campaign'," it said.

Kohlmann has been an expert prosecution witness in several terrorism trials and has "made his living as an expert witness for hire," drawing criticism that he "sees danger everywhere he looks," according to a 2010 profile in New York Magazine.

Osmakac, 27, a Kosovo native and naturalized U.S. citizen from Pinellas Park, was charged in January 2012 with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. The investigation began in 2011 when an informer told the FBI that Osmakac had been shopping for flags representing al-Qaida. The informer introduced Osmakac to an undercover FBI agent posing as someone who could provide weapons.

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at ksheehan@tampabay.com.

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