ORLANDO, Fla. — A man intent on punishing what he considered U.S. mistreatment of Muslims faces charges of planning a suicide attack in the Tampa, Fla., area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Sami Osmakac, 25, of Pinellas Park, was charged Saturday night after arming what he thought was a 100-pound car bomb, records show.
The investigation of Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kosovo, began in September when an informant alerted the FBI of his efforts to buy firearms and explosives to cause widespread mayhem, according to a charging affidavit filed in federal court in Tampa.
"There was no real danger to the community once we got involved," U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert E. O'Neill said Monday.
O'Neill credited the region's Muslim community with assisting the investigation by the FBI and the local Joint Terrorism Task Force.
"We don't prosecute people for their beliefs or ideologies," said O'Neill, describing how Osmakac bought what he thought were working firearms, hand grenades and other explosives to kill as many people as possible near Ybor City nightclubs. "It was real in his mind."
Osmakac's plans included crippling the Tampa region's economy by blowing up bridges but he told an undercover FBI agent that he failed to persuade anyone to assist the plot, according to the affidavit.
"I made many plans, but there's not enough people," Osmakac said, according to a recording that has not been released. "I even wasted like my energy debating and talking and trying (to) inspire them."
Osmakac preferred military victims but said they were too well protected. The Tampa area is home to MacDill Air Force Base and the Special Operations Command, which has oversight over fighting in Afghanistan as well as international training missions.
"Honestly, I would love to go for the Army people but their bases are so locked up I have to do something else," he said, according to the affidavit.
Hassan Shibly, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Tampa chapter, told reporters Monday that Osmakac's extremist views were known in the local Muslim community and that he had been banned from two mosques. Shibly, who could not be reached, said O'Neill and the FBI met with CAIR before Monday's announcement to thank them for the community's help.
According to the charging affidavit, Osmakac claimed in an eight-minute video that the suicide bombing would "pay back" wrongs against Muslims.
In the video filmed by an undercover FBI agent, Osmakac sat cross-legged while wearing what he thought was a 25-pound explosive belt and a satchel with six hand grenades. He was armed with an AK-47 and a .45-caliber pistol, both rendered inoperable by the FBI without his knowledge, the affidavit states.
Osmakac remains held without bail in the Hillsborough County Jail on one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The investigation began Sept. 28 when a Tampa-area business owner working as a paid informant told the FBI that Osmakac and another person asked about the availability of al-Qaida flags. The informant subsequently hired Osmakac to work in the unidentified store and recorded conversations about his plans to stage a terror attack, records state.
In December, Osmakac gave a $500 down payment to an undercover agent for the AK-47 and other weapons, records state. He also wanted to buy a large bomb that could be detonated with a cellular telephone, records state.