MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – Two men found with several pipe bombs in their car near a Navy base were charged Monday with possession of an explosive device, authorities said.
A joint state-federal investigation was under way to see whether there was any terrorism connection, said FBI spokeswoman Denise Taiste, but no link had been found. 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 driving through the area on Saturday to vacation at a North Carolina beach for Mohamed’s birthday, their defense attorney 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,” Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt said.
Mohamed, 24, said he made devices from items he bought at Wal-Mart, according to an affidavit with his arrest warrant.
Defense attorney Dennis Rhoad said the men have a reason for having the devices and it would become clear in later court hearings.
Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson asked for high bond, which was set at $500,000 for Mohamed and $300,000 for Megahed, because she said the men were dangerous and a risk to flee.
Mohamed is a native of Kuwait and Megahed is Egyptian, the sheriff said. Both are in the country legally.
The executive director of a civil rights organization for Muslims in Tampa criticized the arrest as racial profiling, an accusation South Carolina police denied. It’s not clear if the item found in the vehicle is actually a bomb, said Ahmed Bedier of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“If it’s clearly a pipe bomb that’s a different story. Then there is cause for concern,” said Bedier.
Megahed lives with his family and they voluntarily allowed the FBI to search their home in Tampa on Monday, Bedier said.
“They’re so confident that they don’t have anything in their home that they gave the keys to some agents. The father voluntarily allowed them to go search the home unsupervised,” Bedier said.
Neither has ever been arrested by campus police or disciplined by the university.