High bonds set in Muslim college students’ ‘pipe bombs’ case
Two college students from Kuwait and Egypt caught speeding on a South Carolina highway are being held on nearly $1 million in bond after three assembled pipe bombs were discovered in their car.
University of South Florida students Ahmed Abda Sherf Mohamed, 24, and Yousef Samir Megahed, 21, are being held in Berkeley County on charges of possession of explosive devices, a felony that carries a 15year prison sentence.
Bomb squads were called in to detonate the explosives, forcing a nine-hour shutdown of U.S. Highway 176 near Goose Creek. There, a naval weapons station houses the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig — a military prison where enemy combatants are sometimes held.
A judge on Aug. 6 ordered bond be set at $500,000 for Mr. Mohamed, who admitted to assembling the devices, and $300,000 for Mr. Megahed.
One law-enforcement official said the devices were “obviously pipe bombs.” They were found in different locations of the car driven by Mr. Mohamed.
Officers also found potassium chlorate and sugar, which when combined with a catalyst create an instant fire in a spectacular fashion, the ABC News Blotter reported.
In addition, a can of gasoline, PVC pipe, four hobby store brand rocket launchers and hobby store brand fuses were found. The four PVC pipes contained an unknown substance. A laptop computer, GPS unit and cellular phones were also collected as evidence. The laptop computer was sent to the FBI lab at Quantico, Va., for analysis, ABC reported.
“The officer was concerned in his encounter with these two individuals based on their inconsistent statements they made,” a second law-enforcement official told The Washington Times.
Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), said during an Aug. 6 press conference that there is no evidence the men are in league with terrorists, and he suggested the car’s contents were to be used for fireworks.
“Most people will tell you if these were some good old boys from South Carolina traveling through the highway of that county and getting pulled over and having some fireworks, I doubt that it would make news around the world,” Mr. Bedier said.
“No acts of terrorism are alleged; that is not even an issue.”
A spokesman for the FBI said the investigation is ongoing.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson asked for a high bond, which the second law-enforcement official said was indicative of the seriousness of the items found in the 2000 Toyota Camry. Miss Wilson did not return a call for comment.
Officers became suspicious because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and would not say what they were doing there or where they were headed.
A University of South Florida spokesman said Mr. Mohamed is a civil engineering graduate student who started in January. He earned his undergraduate degree in Cairo and was in the U.S. on a student visa.
Mr. Megahed, who has permanent U.S. resident status, has been an undergraduate at the university since 2004.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.