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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
Crime & Courts

Jurors see video of Osmakac discussing ‘terrifying’ plan

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Published:   |   Updated: May 29, 2014 at 06:57 PM

— At first, he was nervous when the FBI agent posing as an arms dealer picked him up at the Days Inn Parking lot.

Sami Osmakac was sure a car had followed him, and he was a little freaked out. He tried to duck down in the agent’s car and wasn’t sure what to do.

“I didn’t get no sleep today,” Osmakac said. “I feel terrible.”

But the agent, posing as “Amir,” calmly drove over near the car that had raised such alarm bells. “A family with kids,” he assured Osmakac. “A family with kids.”

Still, the agent repeatedly told Osmakac he could wait. If he wasn’t ready, they could do it another time.

“I made the decision,” Sami Osmakac told the undercover FBI agent posing as an arms dealer. “Today is the day.”

With a smile on his face, he added, “I’ll have breakfast in Jannah,” the Muslim word for paradise or heaven.

It was Jan. 7, 2012, and Osmakac, authorities say, was determined to launch a bloody terrorist attack in Tampa.

His plan was to detonate a car bomb near MacDinton’s Irish Pub on South Howard Avenue, where he thought there would be “rednecks” and “American steroid soldiers.”

Next, he was going to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, where he planned an attack with a machine gun and handmade grenades. He was going to demand the release of Muslim prisoners and when that was done, pretend to surrender. Then, just as law enforcement got close, he was going to flip the switch on his suicide vest.

The details were captured on video recordings of conversations between Osmakac and Amir, who is testifying behind a screen in Osmakac’s terrorism trial. Osmakac told the agent that he planned to visit a park near a mosque after the first attack and pray before going on to the second.

“You think Hurricane Katrina was bad,” Osmakac told Amir. “Wait till Hurricane Al Qaeda comes. It’s brewing right now.”

The defense maintains Osmakac was entrapped, that he was a poor, mentally ill, radical Muslim targeted by the FBI and a paid informant, who tricked him into breaking the law. Defense lawyer George Tragos has told jurors that Osmakac wanted to go overseas to fight American and NATO troops.

Osmakac never would have planned to hurt anyone on American soil but for the trap set by the government, Tragos said.

In recordings shown to jurors so far, though, Osmakac has led the conversations, with “Amir” responding. If anything, the agent scales down Osmakac’s ambitions, such as when he tells him it might be too much to ignite two or three car bombs instead of just one.

But the agent did have to give Osmakac detailed instructions on how to use the car bomb, as well as the AK-47 and homemade grenades he provided. Unknown to Osmakac, officials say, all the explosives were inert, and the firing pin on the gun was shortened, making it inoperable.

Jurors got a look at the car bomb Thursday. It was made of two large plastic buckets with black electrical tape crossed over the lids and detonation cord coming out of them. They were also shown the car bomb detonator, which was a yellow plastic box with a cell phone, a delay switch and batteries inside.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney displayed the fake suicide vest, and jurors were allowed to handle the bogus grenades, fashioned out of what looked like insulated water bottles.

Osmakac was arrested on Jan. 7, 2012, his fourth meeting with Amir, when he drove off after getting the bogus weapons. The trial broke for the day on Thursday as jurors were viewing the video of Amir and Osmakac inside the Days Inn as the final arrangements were being made.

Jurors on Thursday also saw a video of their third meeting, when Osmakac directed the agent to drive to different places around Ybor City, looking for a spot where he could park his car bomb.

“I want to do something terrifying,” Osmakac said in the recording. “It’s going to be a lot of people.”

Osmakac appears almost giddy with excitement, six days before he was arrested. He rails on about infidels, particularly homosexuals.

He talks about wanting to blow up five bridges in the Tampa area but having to scrap that plan because he couldn’t get anyone else to participate.

“I make many plans, but there’s not enough people,” he says. “I wasted my time trying to inspire.”

After Osmakac was arrested, local Muslims stepped forward to say they had alerted authorities to him because he had harangued people at mosques about wanting to wage violent holy war.

In the recordings presented in the trial, Osmakac makes frequent references to his disagreements with local Muslims.

“I want all the (mosques) to get shut down,” he says. “They’re promoting democracy. They’re misleading people.”

“Islam doesn’t mean peace,” he says at another point. “Islam means submission to Allah.”

The agent talks about a bomb doing a lot of damage.

“The more the better,” Osmakac responds.

Osmakac also talks about American drone strikes and other attacks in Middle Eastern countries.

“There are two kinds of terrorism,” he says. “One they do cowardly from planes, and one praiseworthy.”

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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