TAMPA - Two University of South Florida students - charged today with possession of an incendiary device after police found a suspicious item in their car and detonated it over the weekend – have been deemed flight risks in a Berkeley County courthouse today.
Ahmed Abda Sherf Mohamed, 24, is being held on $500,000 bond and Yousef Samir Megahed, 21, is being held on $300,000 bond. Both men were being held at the Berkeley County jail.
They were ruled flight risks because neither one has family in South Carolina, according to WFLA affiliate WCBD-TV in Charleston, SC..
The students told the judge they were only carrying fireworks, but the prosecutor reiterated that the two students were in possession of pipe bombs and pipe bomb paraphernalia.
"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," Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said.
The sheriff refused to say what items authorities found in the car. He said some items were being analyzed by the FBI.
At a 1:30 p.m. news conference today, USF Spokesman Ken Gullette said Megahed is an undergraduate student and Mohamed is a civil engineering graduate student.
Megahed, left, and Mohamed
Mohamed is originally from Kuwait and completed his undergrad education in Cairo. He has been at USF since January and was registered for six hours during summer session, Gullette said.
Megahed, originally from Egpyt, has been enrolled at USF since 2004 and had not declared a major. He was registered for three hours this fall, Gullette said.
FBI spokeswoman Denise Taiste said no links to terrorism had been found. Taiste would not provide any details about what was found in the vehicle.
"Right now we have a joint investigation going on looking into it further to see if there is any link to terrorism. That's all I really know," Taiste said.
The two men were pulled over for speeding Saturday night, and officers became suspicious when the men couldn't immediately say what they were doing in the area or where they were going, DeWitt said.
Bomb technicians exploded an item found in the car about 2:45 a.m. Sunday. The item made a loud bang, similar to a firecracker, when it was demolished.
Authorities closed a mile-long stretch of U.S. Highway 176 in Goose Creek at about 7 p.m. Saturday, and federal officials said then there was "no immediate threat." It reopened at about 4 a.m. Sunday.
Megahed's family members only heard news of his arrest while watching CNN, Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. "They never received a phone call," he said.
A representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations accompanied family members to South Carolina late Sunday, Bedier said.
Bedier said he has seen reports coming out of South Carolina that the men merely had fireworks in their car. "We need to know what the facts are," he said.
Goose Creek is home to the Naval Weapons Station, which houses the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig, a military prison where enemy combatants have been held. Suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla was held there for 3 1/2 years before going on trial in Miami.
The car was heading west, away from Goose Creek, when it was pulled over about 7 miles from the sprawling Navy facility, police said.
Goose Creek, with a population of about 30,000, is about 20 miles north of Charleston.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
2 Florida students charged in explosives scare face $800,000 bond
A bomb squad technician examines items removed from a four door sedan on Highway 176 in Goose Creek early Sunday morning. The FBI is on the scene investigating the suspicious car that was stopped by police Saturday night. A robot, center, removed several items including a backpack, a large gas can, and a red box from the car. The technician crawled on his stomach for a cautious up-close look at several items.
GOOSE CREEK — Pipe bombs were found Saturday in the trunk of a car being driven by two Florida college students, according to court documents.
Now the men will have to post a combined $800,000 in bond to get out of jail, a circuit judge decided this afternoon.
Youseff Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 24, have been charged with possession of an incendiary device, Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt announced today. If convicted of the charges, the men could face between 2 to 15 years in prison.
Mohamed's bond was set at $500,000 while Megahed's was set at $300,000.
Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said the men were pulled over Saturday night on U.S. Highway 176 while driving more than 60 mph in a 45-mph zone. When an officer approached the car, he saw one of them men fold a laptop computer, which the officer believed was suspicious, DeWitt said.
The officer asked them if he could search the car, which the men agreed to. When he asked if there was anything in the car he should know about, the men said there were fireworks in the trunk.
At a 1:30 p.m. news conference today in Tampa, a spokesman for the University of South Florida where the men attend said Megahed is an undergraduate student and Mohamed is a civil engineering graduate student, the Tampa Tribune is reporting.
Mohamed is originally from Kuwait and completed his undergrad education in Cairo, according to the Tampa newspaper. He has been at USF since January and was registered for six hours during summer session, the spokesman told the paper.
Megahed, originally from Egpyt, has been enrolled at USF since 2004 and had not declared a major. He was registered for three hours this fall, according to the newspaper.
An Islamic community leader from Tampa, Fla., who's been in touch with the families of the two detained college students, told The Post and Courier that Megahed and Mohamed are not troublemakers and that they a were simply on a weekend trip to North Carolina.
Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization for Muslims, said family members have told him they think the materials were leftover fireworks Megahed kept in his trunk since July 4.
"Both of them are really naïve kids," Bedier said.
He said Megahed is a permanent legal resident of the United States and Mohamed was the passenger. Mohamed's legal status is not known.
"There's a lot of unanswered questions," Bedier said.
A terrorism task force, meanwhile is reviewing the evidence, said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
"At this point, it is too early in the investigation to say there is any link to terrorism," Kolko said.
News that explosives were found Saturday shocked residents in Goose Creek, home to the Naval Weapons Station, which houses the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig, a military prison where enemy combatants have been held.