USF Suspect Produced Video on Remote Controlled Explosives
September 14, 2007
TAMPA - When a South Carolina police officer pulled over two Egyptian engineering students for speeding last month, he noticed one trying to put away a laptop computer.
That computer contained a 12-minute video showing how to take apart a remote-control toy car and reassemble the wiring to make it into a remote detonation device, a federal prosecutor said Friday. The video's narrator, a graduate student at the University of South Florida, said the device helped "to save one who wants to be a martyr for another battle," the prosecutor said.
Investigators seized the laptop at the traffic stop. They later found that the most recently viewed files included videos showing Qassam rockets being fired along with visits to Web sites relating to Hamas and videos involving martyrs. It was not clear whether those files were being viewed as the two students drove.
Federal prosecutor Jay Hoffer described the laptop's contents during a bond hearing Friday afternoon for defendant Youssef Megahed. It was Megahed who was in the passenger seat with the computer on his lap when the police officer stopped the car for speeding Aug. 4 in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed were indicted Aug. 31 in Tampa and charged with illegally transporting explosive materials. Mohamed also is charged with teaching and demonstrating how to make an explosive device. The video was uploaded onto YouTube, but later removed by the Web site, Hoffer said.
During their search of the car last month, investigators also found PVC pipe in the trunk filled with an explosive mixture of potassium nitrate, Karo syrup and kitty litter. Officers also found safety fuse, bullets and a mostly-full 5-gallon can of gas.
Hoffer called the potassium nitrate mixture a "low grade explosive."
Megahed's rented Tampa home was searched by FBI agents. They found more material used in the explosive mixture, Hoffer said. In addition, they found a remote control toy boat still in its box. At a separate storage shed rented by Megahed, agents found a .22-caliber rifle and have uncovered evidence he tried to buy a Beretta handgun.
"The United States views this defendant as a danger," Hoffer said.
Mohamed waived his bond hearing earlier Friday and remains in custody. U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Jenkins ruled that Megahed could be freed on a $200,000 bond, provided he and his family turn in their passports. He also would be under house arrest, except to meet with his attorney or go to religious services and would be prohibited from any Internet access.
Prosecutors appealed that ruling, so Megahed also remains in custody. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed a detainer on Megahed, meaning they could move him to ICE custody should he be released on bond in the criminal case.
Megahed is a permanent legal resident, but the charge against him could prompt ICE to try rescinding that status.