- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TAMPA, FLA. (AP) - An Egyptian college student and another man were carrying pipe bombs and other items that could be combined to build a destructive “incendiary bomb” when they were stopped by authorities during a multistate road trip, a federal prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.

In a case with terrorist overtones, prosecutor Jay Hoffer said 23-year-old Youssef Samir Megahed (MEG-uh-hed), a former University of South Florida engineering student, is guilty of transporting explosives and possessing a destructive device.

Hoffer, in his opening statement in Megahed’s trial, didn’t make any suggestions about what Megahed and an Egyptian companion might have had planned, but he said the men acted nervous after they were stopped in South Carolina and were speaking in Arabic “getting their stories straight.”

Hoffer said the items deputies found in the trunk of their car _ four sections of PVC pipe containing a mixture of sugar, potassium nitrate and cat litter, plus fuses _ were “low explosives” that are illegal to carry across state lines and could have been combined with a can of gasoline in the trunk to build a destructive device.

Hoffer said discovery of the pipe bombs in the car caused deputies to “jump back in fear.”

Megahed’s attorney, Adam Allen, scoffed at Hoffer’s characterization of the items as explosives. He said the 3-to-4-inch pipes were “model rocket motors” assembled with common household items by Megahed’s friend, Ahmed Mohamed, and put in the trunk for the trip without Megahed’s knowledge.

“The items are no more harmless than a road flare,” Allen said, noting that FBI recreations showed the items did nothing more than smoke and burn.

Allen worked to distance his client from Mohamed, an older graduate student at the University of South Florida whom Megahed had known for less than a year and who apparently harbored some terrorist leanings.

In the borrowed Toyota Camry Mohamed was driving when they were stopped, deputies found a laptop computer containing a video Mohamed produced and posted on the YouTube Web site. The 12-minute clip shows would-be terrorists how to convert a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator.

Mohamed narrated the video in Arabic, saying he wanted to teach “martyrdoms” and “suiciders” how to save themselves so they can continue to fight invaders, including U.S. soldiers.

Mohamed, 27, pleaded guilty to providing support to terrorists and in December got the maximum 15-year sentence from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, who is also presiding over Megahed’s trial.

But the jury won’t hear about the video because Merryday has deemed it irrelevant to the case against Megahed, who wasn’t charged in connection with the video. Allen has said Megahed had no knowledge of it.

Megahed and Mohamed were arrested near Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 4, 2007, in the midst of what Allen called “an innocent weekend college road trip” to see East Coast beaches.

If convicted of both charges, Megahed could get up to 20 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines call for only a fraction of that time.



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