Pinellas Park Muslim man charged with attempted use of a bomb listen01/09/12 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 thereâ€™s one less terrorist to worry about.
â€œAre we safe? No, weâ€™re not completely safe, but weâ€™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.â€
Nelson attributed Osmakacâ€™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.
â€œA 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.â€
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.
â€œPeople were concerned with his extremist views. He was against the Muslim community as a whole. He was against organizations like CAIR. He was against â€“ 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 thatâ€™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.â€
And Shibly said this isnâ€™t the first time members of CAIR have experienced extremism among one of their own.
â€œThis 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 Iâ€™ve met maybe is like that. This is one of the problems. CAIR is fighting extremism on both ends. Weâ€™re fighting the extremists who label all Muslims as evil and terrorists and weâ€™re fighting the extremists who say Islam and America is incompatible with each other.â€
Even though some Muslims reported Osmakacâ€™s strange behavior, Shibly said many other arrests that are related to possible terrorist plots bordered on entrapment by the government.
â€œThereâ€™s been several reports out there that â€“ 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 â€˜well, the FBIâ€™s saving us from their own plots and weâ€™re thankful for them for thatâ€™. I donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s the situation. Itâ€™s difficult and itâ€™s premature to judge at this point.â€
When asked about possible cases involving entrapment, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson wouldnâ€™t comment on his position.
â€œWell, on this particular one if you get the details from the U.S. attorney this afternoon youâ€™ll see that thereâ€™s not question that there was any entrapment here.â€
â€œCertainly not in this case, but there have been situations like that.â€
â€œIf you give me a specific case, Iâ€™ll give you a specific answer.â€
News of Osmakacâ€™s charges and this afternoonâ€™s appearance in federal court could lead to hate crimes against Muslims. CAIRâ€™s Hassan Shibly encouraged people to avoid acts of violence.
â€œUnfortunately, these things serve to sometimes insight violence in backlash of the Muslim community. In Florida weâ€™ve had mosques and individuals being targeted. I think, really I have good faith in the American people that we realize thereâ€™s criminals in every single group and thereâ€™s no sense in using this to insight further violence.â€
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.