- A criminal complaint alleges that the defendant planned explosions and hostage-taking
- The defendant, a naturalized American born in Kosovo, pleads not guilty
- The authorities have thanked the Muslim community for helping in the investigation
A Florida man accused of planning to use explosives and weapons "to create mayhem'" in Tampa pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
A criminal complaint made public last month alleged that Sami Osmakac, a naturalized American born in Kosovo, planned a car bombing that would be followed by hostage-taking and the explosion of a suicide belt he planned to wear.
"We all have to die, so why not die the Islamic way?" Osmakac allegedly told an undercover FBI employee, according to the complaint.
He said in a martyrdom video message recorded shortly before his arrest in early January that he wanted "'pay back' for wrongs he felt were done to Muslims," the complaint said.
Osmakac, in his mid-20s, entered a written not guilty plea to the U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Authorities have said that the alleged bomb plot was foiled, thanks to the local Muslim community and law enforcement.
"When a person's got an AK-47 which he believes is operable, when he has explosives which he believes are real, and when he has an explosive pack and a car bomb which ... he is going to utilize against Americans, that makes it a crime," Robert O'Neill, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, said last month. "Was it real? It was very real."
O'Neill said that, through the local Muslim community, "we were able to know that this person had this ideology and wanted to commit a crime."
Steve Ibison, who heads the FBI's Tampa office, called assistance from members of the Muslim community "very significant" throughout the investigation.
Osmakac did not appear to have any ties to al Qaeda, officials said.
The federal investigation of Osmakac began in September after a source told the FBI that Osmakac, a resident of Pinellas Park, Florida, "asked for al Qaeda flags," the complaint said.
By November, he was discussing potential terror targets in Tampa and asked for the confidential source's help in getting guns and explosives for the attacks, the complaint said.
The government's source introduced Osmakac to an undercover FBI employee, which led to a December 21 meeting during which the suspect said "he wished to acquire an AK-47-style machine gun, Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and an explosive belt," the complaint said. He later allegedly gave the FBI employee a $500 down payment for the weapons, according to the document.
His alleged bomb targets included night clubs in the Ybor City area of Tampa, a bar, the operations center of the local sheriff's office and a business in the South Tampa area, the government said
FBI agents arrested him on January 7, just after he made the video explaining his motives.