Pinellas Park Muslim man charged with attempted use of a bomb

01/09/12 Janelle Irwin
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A Pinellas Park resident has been charged with allegedly plotting attacks in Tampa with vehicle bombs and other weapons. Sami Osmakac was seen as a threat to both law enforcement and the Muslim community.

The 25-year-old Muslim is a naturalized U.S. citizen from the former Yugoslavia. In September, Osmakac was arrested on battery charges he incurred during a religious argument at a protest. That misdemeanor charge paved the way to federal charges of attempts to use a weapon of mass destruction. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said the charges mean there’s one less terrorist to worry about.

“Are we safe? No, we’re not completely safe, but we’re clearly safer than we were in 2001. What you have is all over the country, you have people who are trying to do bad things and some of them have a terrorist motive, as is, apparently, this suspect.”

Nelson attributed Osmakac’s capture to cooperation between various local and federal law enforcement agencies. But he also said the Muslim community had a hand in identifying the man.

“A lot needs to be said, also, about the cooperation of people in the Muslim community. They had pretty well identified this fellow as being a problem. So, this is a good example of America coming together to try to prevent a terrorist attack.”

According to Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Osmakac was a concern to many Muslim individuals. Shibly said Osmakac was banned from two different mosques over the past two years.

“People were concerned with his extremist views. He was against the Muslim community as a whole. He was against organizations like CAIR. He was against – I think a lot of the principles that we as Muslims stand for. Therefore, we did not feel comfortable having that individual at mosque and that’s why he was reported. But I think the fear at that point was that maybe he was just mentally disturbed and a troubled youth. Therefore, I think the community members hoped that by reporting him, he could get proper assistance.”

And Shibly said this isn’t the first time members of CAIR have experienced extremism among one of their own.

“This particular chapter and its staff have been targeted by similar, like-minded individuals who have called us infidels, walked out on us, spoke out against us publicly. There are very few. I think one in every 2,000 people I’ve met maybe is like that. This is one of the problems. CAIR is fighting extremism on both ends. We’re fighting the extremists who label all Muslims as evil and terrorists and we’re fighting the extremists who say Islam and America is incompatible with each other.”

Even though some Muslims reported Osmakac’s strange behavior, Shibly said many other arrests that are related to possible terrorist plots bordered on entrapment by the government.

“There’s been several reports out there that – about 17 out of 20 of the terrorist convictions that occurred in the United States since 9/11 were actually initiated and instigated by law enforcement. And then they found a disturbed individual to actually go ahead and agree to do it. And that disturbs us. There was an article by Fox News by one of the Fox News reporters saying ‘well, the FBI’s saving us from their own plots and we’re thankful for them for that’. I don’t know if that’s the situation. It’s difficult and it’s premature to judge at this point.”

When asked about possible cases involving entrapment, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson wouldn’t comment on his position.

“Well, on this particular one if you get the details from the U.S. attorney this afternoon you’ll see that there’s not question that there was any entrapment here.”

“Certainly not in this case, but there have been situations like that.”

“If you give me a specific case, I’ll give you a specific answer.”

News of Osmakac’s charges and this afternoon’s appearance in federal court could lead to hate crimes against Muslims. CAIR’s Hassan Shibly encouraged people to avoid acts of violence.

“Unfortunately, these things serve to sometimes insight violence in backlash of the Muslim community. In Florida we’ve had mosques and individuals being targeted. I think, really I have good faith in the American people that we realize there’s criminals in every single group and there’s no sense in using this to insight further violence.”

Shibly said he believes Osmakac may suffer from mental illness and hopes he will be treated appropriately. Osmakac faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a quarter of a million dollar fine if he is convicted.

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