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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Two University of South Florida Muslim students jailed after being found near naval base with explosive device

Two University of South Florida Muslim students jailed after being found near naval base with explosive device

August 7, 2007

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,,-6831448,00.html

2 Charged in SC With Incendiary Device


Monday August 6, 2007 10:01 PM

By BRUCE SMITH

Associated Press Writer

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (AP) - Two Middle Eastern men arrested near a Navy base after police found a suspicious item in their car were charged Monday with possession of an incendiary device, authorities said.

A joint state-federal investigation was under way to see if there was any terrorism connection but no link had been found yet, said FBI spokeswoman Denise Taiste. The Navy base is the site of a brig where enemy combatants have been held.

Ahmed Abda Sherf Mohamed, 24, and Yousef Samir Megahed, 21, both students at the University of South Florida in Tampa, were being held Monday pending a bail hearing, Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said.

Mohamed is a native of Kuwait and Megahed is Egyptian, the sheriff said. Both are in the country legally, DeWitt said.

"They admitted to having what they said were fireworks. Based on the officer's judgment at hand, based on what he had seen, we judged it to be other than fireworks," DeWitt said.

The sheriff refused to say what was found in the car but said some items were being analyzed by the FBI. Taiste would not give any details on what was in the vehicle.

Ahmed Bedier, the executive director of a civil rights organization for Muslims in Tampa, criticized the arrest as racial profiling, an accusation South Carolina police refuted.

"Definitely this is not related to terrorism," said Bedier, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"Had these been two good ol' boys from South Carolina driving through and speeding - and even if they did have some fireworks - nobody would have been arrested," Bedier said.

The two men were stopped for speeding Saturday night near Goose Creek on U.S. Highway 176.

Goose Creek is the site of the Naval Weapons Station, which houses the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig, a military prison where enemy combatants have been held. They were heading west, away from Goose Creek, when they were pulled over about seven miles from the sprawling Navy facility, police said.

Officers became suspicious because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and couldn't immediately say what they were doing in the area or where they were going, DeWitt said.

One item found in the car was destroyed by bomb technicians, making a loud bang when it was detonated.

"I would not know how to describe that item," the sheriff said. "We merely know it was an explosive device. There were several items built in that same fashion which were retrieved from the vehicle."

Authorities closed a mile-long stretch of the highway Saturday night and didn't reopen it until about 4 a.m. Sunday.

University spokesman Ken Gullette said Mohamed is a civil engineering graduate student who came to the school in January. He earned his undergraduate degree in Cairo and was in the country on a student visa.

Megahed, an Egyptian who has permanent resident status in the United States, is an undergraduate and has been at the university since 2004, but has not declared a major, Gullette said.

Neither has ever been arrested by campus police or disciplined by the university, Gullette said. Both were enrolled in classes this summer. Gullette said the university is cooperating with authorities.

If convicted of the felony charge, the men would face from two to 15 years in prison.

Goose Creek, with a population of about 30,000, is about 20 miles north of Charleston.

----------------

2 USF Students In S.C. Charged With Possession Of Pipe Bomb

By VALERIE KALFRIN The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - Prosecutors in South Carolina said two University of South Florida students were carrying a pipe bomb and pipe-bomb paraphernalia when they were pulled over for speeding there during the weekend.

A Muslim advocacy group in Tampa is questioning the criminal charge filed Monday against Youssef Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 24.

The men were charged Monday under South Carolina statutes with possession of an incendiary or explosive device. Both were being held in a Berkeley County jail on Monday. Mohamed's bail was set at $500,000 and Megahed's at $300,000.

A Berkeley County judge considered them a flight risk because they have no ties to South Carolina. The judge ordered them monitored by a global-positioning system if they post bail to ensure they do not leave the state.

Neither man has a prior arrest, records show.

An arrest report shows that Berkeley County, S.C., deputies stopped the men about 5:30 p.m. Saturday traveling 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. Officials said the traffic stop occurred along U.S. 176 in Goose Creek, about seven miles from the Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station. The complex houses a military prison for enemy combatants.

"Was that a possible target of any kind? We don't know," Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said. "A very thorough investigation will be done henceforth, I can tell you that."

The car was driving away from the station at the time of the stop. Deputies became suspicious, DeWitt said, because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and couldn't immediately say where they were going. A laptop was confiscated during the arrest.

The men agreed to a search of the Toyota sedan, where a deputy found what appeared to be an explosive device in the trunk, the arrest report states.

Prosecutors, the Berkeley County sheriff and an FBI spokesman have offered different descriptions of the trunk's contents. The sheriff's office blew up the material it found suspicious.

Authorities won't know definitively what the material was until the FBI completes forensic tests, DeWitt said.

DeWitt said the men claimed the items were fireworks and that it's possible they were. "Based on the officer's judgment at hand and as to what he had seen - we thought it to be other than fireworks," DeWitt said.

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington, told Reuters on Sunday that the men had "some materials to make some pretty good-sized homemade fireworks but not bomb stuff."

Monday, Kolko declined to comment on the case when reached by the Tribune, referring all questions to the sheriff's office.

The Department of Homeland Security is "closely monitoring" the situation through the FBI, according to DHS spokesman Russ Knocke.

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the "conflicting information" about the trunk's contents is disturbing.

"We're really concerned about the lack of evidence," Bedier said Monday. "They brought in the bomb squad and detonated the evidence they had. That was premature to charge somebody and rush to judgment without evidence."

At Monday's bail hearing, Mohamed said the trunk contained fireworks.

Megahed's family told Bedier that the former mechanic is restoring a car and kept tools and oil canisters in the trunk.

Bedier pointed out that no federal charges have been filed. Megahed's friends told Bedier that he left Tampa about midnight Friday to go sightseeing in the Carolinas along Interstate 95. He planned to return to Tampa on Monday.

"It looks like they took 95 and went up the coast," he said.

He likened the situation to a 2002 traffic stop involving three Muslim medical students that shut down Alligator Alley for hours after someone reported the students were suspicious; those students were not criminally charged.

"Obviously their heritage and background is playing a major role in blowing this out of proportion," Bedier said. "If these were some good old boys, I doubt this [story] would be played around the world."

Megahed works at a mental health clinic, according to information provided at the bail hearing. Ken Gullette, a USF spokesman, said Megahed originally is from Egypt and is a permanent resident of the United States, not a U.S. citizen.

Megahed has attended USF since 2004 and did not declare a major, Gullette said.

Bedier said he takes engineering classes.

Mohamed is a graduate student from Kuwait studying civil engineering, Gullette said. He has attended USF since January.

Records from university police show minor contact with both men, with Megahed reporting this year that a book was stolen from the campus library. Mohamed reported an incident of fraud.

University police filled out a "field contact card" about speaking to each man in a vehicle in the SunDome parking lot at 10:46 p.m. May 25, records show. No charges were filed.

Jassim Aldeen, president of the USF Muslim Student Organization, knows Megahed and said he was stunned by the charges. "He was a very kind person, a bit shy. Everywhere he went, I would see him smiling," Aldeen said. "It is beyond a doubt in my mind that whatever was in that trunk is not explosives. I know his character."

Bedier said Megahed could have been carrying something he did not know would be misinterpreted. He called these trying times for Muslims.

"People have to think twice and three times," Bedier said, "before they go on the road about what they're carrying, what they're wearing, so they don't attract unwanted attention."

TAMPA - Prosecutors in South Carolina said two University of South Florida students were carrying a pipe bomb and pipe-bomb paraphernalia when they were pulled over for speeding there during the weekend.

A Muslim advocacy group in Tampa is questioning the criminal charge filed Monday against Youssef Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 24.

The men were charged Monday under South Carolina statutes with possession of an incendiary or explosive device. Both were being held in a Berkeley County jail on Monday. Mohamed's bail was set at $500,000 and Megahed's at $300,000.

A Berkeley County judge considered them a flight risk because they have no ties to South Carolina. The judge ordered them monitored by a global-positioning system if they post bail to ensure they do not leave the state.

Neither man has a prior arrest, records show.

An arrest report shows that Berkeley County, S.C., deputies stopped the men about 5:30 p.m. Saturday traveling 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. Officials said the traffic stop occurred along U.S. 176 in Goose Creek, about seven miles from the Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station. The complex houses a military prison for enemy combatants.

"Was that a possible target of any kind? We don't know," Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said. "A very thorough investigation will be done henceforth, I can tell you that."

The car was driving away from the station at the time of the stop. Deputies became suspicious, DeWitt said, because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and couldn't immediately say where they were going. A laptop was confiscated during the arrest.

The men agreed to a search of the Toyota sedan, where a deputy found what appeared to be an explosive device in the trunk, the arrest report states.

Prosecutors, the Berkeley County sheriff and an FBI spokesman have offered different descriptions of the trunk's contents. The sheriff's office blew up the material it found suspicious.

Authorities won't know definitively what the material was until the FBI completes forensic tests, DeWitt said.

DeWitt said the men claimed the items were fireworks and that it's possible they were. "Based on the officer's judgment at hand and as to what he had seen - we thought it to be other than fireworks," DeWitt said.

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington, told Reuters on Sunday that the men had "some materials to make some pretty good-sized homemade fireworks but not bomb stuff."

Monday, Kolko declined to comment on the case when reached by the Tribune, referring all questions to the sheriff's office.

The Department of Homeland Security is "closely monitoring" the situation through the FBI, according to DHS spokesman Russ Knocke.

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the "conflicting information" about the trunk's contents is disturbing.

"We're really concerned about the lack of evidence," Bedier said Monday. "They brought in the bomb squad and detonated the evidence they had. That was premature to charge somebody and rush to judgment without evidence."

At Monday's bail hearing, Mohamed said the trunk contained fireworks.

Megahed's family told Bedier that the former mechanic is restoring a car and kept tools and oil canisters in the trunk.

Bedier pointed out that no federal charges have been filed. Megahed's friends told Bedier that he left Tampa about midnight Friday to go sightseeing in the Carolinas along Interstate 95. He planned to return to Tampa on Monday.

"It looks like they took 95 and went up the coast," he said.

He likened the situation to a 2002 traffic stop involving three Muslim medical students that shut down Alligator Alley for hours after someone reported the students were suspicious; those students were not criminally charged.

"Obviously their heritage and background is playing a major role in blowing this out of proportion," Bedier said. "If these were some good old boys, I doubt this [story] would be played around the world."

Megahed works at a mental health clinic, according to information provided at the bail hearing. Ken Gullette, a USF spokesman, said Megahed originally is from Egypt and is a permanent resident of the United States, not a U.S. citizen.

Megahed has attended USF since 2004 and did not declare a major, Gullette said.

Bedier said he takes engineering classes.

Mohamed is a graduate student from Kuwait studying civil engineering, Gullette said. He has attended USF since January.

Records from university police show minor contact with both men, with Megahed reporting this year that a book was stolen from the campus library. Mohamed reported an incident of fraud.

University police filled out a "field contact card" about speaking to each man in a vehicle in the SunDome parking lot at 10:46 p.m. May 25, records show. No charges were filed.

Jassim Aldeen, president of the USF Muslim Student Organization, knows Megahed and said he was stunned by the charges. "He was a very kind person, a bit shy. Everywhere he went, I would see him smiling," Aldeen said. "It is beyond a doubt in my mind that whatever was in that trunk is not explosives. I know his character."

Bedier said Megahed could have been carrying something he did not know would be misinterpreted. He called these trying times for Muslims.

"People have to think twice and three times," Bedier said, "before they go on the road about what they're carrying, what they're wearing, so they don't attract unwanted attention."

TAMPA - Prosecutors in South Carolina said two University of South Florida students were carrying a pipe bomb and pipe-bomb paraphernalia when they were pulled over for speeding there during the weekend.

A Muslim advocacy group in Tampa is questioning the criminal charge filed Monday against Youssef Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 24.

The men were charged Monday under South Carolina statutes with possession of an incendiary or explosive device. Both were being held in a Berkeley County jail on Monday. Mohamed's bail was set at $500,000 and Megahed's at $300,000.

A Berkeley County judge considered them a flight risk because they have no ties to South Carolina. The judge ordered them monitored by a global-positioning system if they post bail to ensure they do not leave the state.

Neither man has a prior arrest, records show.

An arrest report shows that Berkeley County, S.C., deputies stopped the men about 5:30 p.m. Saturday traveling 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. Officials said the traffic stop occurred along U.S. 176 in Goose Creek, about seven miles from the Goose Creek Naval Weapons Station. The complex houses a military prison for enemy combatants.

"Was that a possible target of any kind? We don't know," Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said. "A very thorough investigation will be done henceforth, I can tell you that."

The car was driving away from the station at the time of the stop. Deputies became suspicious, DeWitt said, because the men quickly put away a laptop computer and couldn't immediately say where they were going. A laptop was confiscated during the arrest.

The men agreed to a search of the Toyota sedan, where a deputy found what appeared to be an explosive device in the trunk, the arrest report states.

Prosecutors, the Berkeley County sheriff and an FBI spokesman have offered different descriptions of the trunk's contents. The sheriff's office blew up the material it found suspicious.

Authorities won't know definitively what the material was until the FBI completes forensic tests, DeWitt said.

DeWitt said the men claimed the items were fireworks and that it's possible they were. "Based on the officer's judgment at hand and as to what he had seen - we thought it to be other than fireworks," DeWitt said.

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington, told Reuters on Sunday that the men had "some materials to make some pretty good-sized homemade fireworks but not bomb stuff."

Monday, Kolko declined to comment on the case when reached by the Tribune, referring all questions to the sheriff's office.

The Department of Homeland Security is "closely monitoring" the situation through the FBI, according to DHS spokesman Russ Knocke.

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the "conflicting information" about the trunk's contents is disturbing.

"We're really concerned about the lack of evidence," Bedier said Monday. "They brought in the bomb squad and detonated the evidence they had. That was premature to charge somebody and rush to judgment without evidence."

At Monday's bail hearing, Mohamed said the trunk contained fireworks.

Megahed's family told Bedier that the former mechanic is restoring a car and kept tools and oil canisters in the trunk.

Bedier pointed out that no federal charges have been filed. Megahed's friends told Bedier that he left Tampa about midnight Friday to go sightseeing in the Carolinas along Interstate 95. He planned to return to Tampa on Monday.

"It looks like they took 95 and went up the coast," he said.

He likened the situation to a 2002 traffic stop involving three Muslim medical students that shut down Alligator Alley for hours after someone reported the students were suspicious; those students were not criminally charged.

"Obviously their heritage and background is playing a major role in blowing this out of proportion," Bedier said. "If these were some good old boys, I doubt this [story] would be played around the world."

Megahed works at a mental health clinic, according to information provided at the bail hearing. Ken Gullette, a USF spokesman, said Megahed originally is from Egypt and is a permanent resident of the United States, not a U.S. citizen.

Megahed has attended USF since 2004 and did not declare a major, Gullette said.

Bedier said he takes engineering classes.

Mohamed is a graduate student from Kuwait studying civil engineering, Gullette said. He has attended USF since January.

Records from university police show minor contact with both men, with Megahed reporting this year that a book was stolen from the campus library. Mohamed reported an incident of fraud.

University police filled out a "field contact card" about speaking to each man in a vehicle in the SunDome parking lot at 10:46 p.m. May 25, records show. No charges were filed.

Jassim Aldeen, president of the USF Muslim Student Organization, knows Megahed and said he was stunned by the charges. "He was a very kind person, a bit shy. Everywhere he went, I would see him smiling," Aldeen said. "It is beyond a doubt in my mind that whatever was in that trunk is not explosives. I know his character."

Bedier said Megahed could have been carrying something he did not know would be misinterpreted. He called these trying times for Muslims.

"People have to think twice and three times," Bedier said, Before they go on the road about what they're carrying what they're wearing, so they don't attract unwanted attention." http://www.tbo.com/news/metro/MGBK9MOT15F.html

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NOTE: The gov't's response to defendant Megahed's motion to sever is posted at http://media.tbo.com/tbo/pdfs/112107usf.pdf

'Martyrdom' Detonator Video Details Revealed In Case
By Elaine Silvestrini of The Tampa Tribune Published: November 21, 2007

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/nov/21/martyrdom-detonator-video-detailed-usf-students-ca/?news-breaking

TAMPA - A prosecution court filing provides new details of a videotape the government says was made by a University of South Florida student and posted to the Web site YouTube. The video, authorities allege, was made by Ahmed Mohamed, 26, who was arrested in South Carolina on Aug. 4 along with Youssef Megahed and accused of transporting explosives. The prosecution says Mohamed acknowledged making the video in which he demonstrated how to use a remote-controlled toy to detonate a bomb. The prosecution court filing quotes Mohamed as saying in Arabic on the video, "Instead of the brethren going to, to carry out martyrdom operations, no may G-D bless him, he can use the explosion tools from distance and preserve his life, G-D willing, the blessed and exalted, for the real battles." The quote comes in a reply the government filed to a motion by Megahed seeking to have his case tried separately from Mohamed. Megahed's attorneys argue that terrorism-related allegations against Mohamed will unfairly prejudice the jury against Megahed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer writes in his response that he opposes the severance of the case, saying there is no basis to think the jury could not be fair to both defendants. The "G-D" portions of the quote stand for the word "god," according to Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Jay did that out of respect to God. That's the way he prints that name," Cole said. Assistant Federal Public Defender Adam Allen said, with court permission, he plans to "respond to the government's motion and to fill in gaps in facts which the government has neglected to plead." Hoffer notes in his filing that the video was found by investigators on a laptop computer owned by Mohamed.

Megahed was seen trying to stow the computer as deputies approached their car in North Carolina, the prosecution says. Describing the video, a new prosecution court filing says, "Referring to the disassembled toy car, the narrator said 'We will cut the circuit of ... these two wires that supply the electric current to the motor and rather ... than giving electricity to the motor, we will route it to the detonator.' " "Later summarizing the process, the narrator of the tape said that he 'will make this circuit send to the detonator' and, after disconnecting the wires on the toy car from their connection to the motor and showing how to connect them to another type of device, the narrator summarized his product as something akin to a military 'detonator' or 'self-igniter,' which, he went on to say, is 'an instrument or a simple tool that initiates the ignition, which in turn initiates the explosive reaction or any fuel reaction.' " "That ignition," the narrator is quoted as saying, "will in turn cause another ignition or the start of an explosion."

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