ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A 25-year-old man from the former Yugoslavia was charged with plotting a radical Islamic attack on crowded locations around Tampa, including nightclubs and a sheriff's office, with a car bomb, assault rifle and other explosives, federal authorities said Monday.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Sami Osmakac, a naturalized American citizen born in Kosovo, recorded an eight minute video shortly before his arrest explaining why he wanted to bring terror to his "victims' hearts" in the Tampa Bay area.
In the video, according to the federal complaint, Osmakac is seen cross-legged on the floor with a pistol in his hand and an AK-47 behind him. Osmakac said in the video that Muslim blood was more valuable than that of people who do not believe in Islam, according to the complaint. He said he wanted "payback" for wrong that was done to Muslims, the complaint said.
There is no indication that Osmakac planned to attack the Republican National Convention, which will be held in Tampa in August, federal authorities said.
Osmakac was arrested Saturday. His first appearance in federal court was scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday.
Authorities say Osmakac, from Pinellas Park, Fla. — a small city west of Tampa — was charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill thanked the local Muslim community for assistance in the investigation, without elaborating.
FBI agents arrested Osmakac on Saturday after he allegedly bought explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent. The firearms and explosives were rendered inoperable by law enforcement.
Federal officials say a confidential source told them in September 2011 that Osmakac walked into the source's business looking for al-Qaida flags. The confidential source then hired Osmakac and was in constant contact with federal officials and audio or video taped their conversations.
Two months later, the federal complaint said, Osmakac and the confidential source discussed and identified potential targets in Tampa that Osmakac wanted to attack.
Osmakac allegedly asked the source for help getting firearms and explosives for the attacks, and the source put him in touch with an undercover FBI employee.
On Dec. 21, Osmakac met with the undercover agent and allegedly told the agent that he wanted to buy an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and an explosive belt. During a later meeting, Osmakac gave the agent a $500 down payment for the items.
"According to the complaint, Osmakac also asked the undercover employee whether he/she could build bombs that could be placed in three different vehicles and detonated remotely, near where Osmakac would conduct a follow-up attack using the other weapons he requested," the press release said. "The undercover employee said he/she could possibly provide explosives for one vehicle. Osmakac also allegedly said that he wanted an explosive belt constructed to kill people."
On Jan. 1, Osmakac told the agent that he wanted to bomb nightclubs, the operations center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and a business in Tampa, Florida.
Osmakac told the undercover FBI agent that he wanted to detonate a car bomb and use the explosive belt to "get in somewhere where there's a lot of people" and take hostages.
Osmakac told the agent that after he took hostages he wanted to demand something from the "kuffar" — an Arabic word that means infidels or disbelievers of Islam, federal authorities said.
According to the affidavit, he also stated, "Honestly, I would love to go for the Army people, but their bases are so locked up, I have to do something else."
Osmakac said he wanted to take down the bridges that link the city of Tampa to neighboring Pinellas County.
"This will crush the whole economy," he allegedly said to the agent. "This would crush everything man, they would have no more food coming in. They would, nobody would have work."
During that meeting, the agent told Osmakac he could always change his mind about his plot.
"According to the complaint, Osmakac immediately shook his head in the negative and stated, 'We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?' " the press release stated.
Tamara Lush can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush