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At issue with regard to the larger security implications is the criminal background of Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif MOHAMED, who was previously arrested in Egypt on terrorism-related charges. He reportedly produced an Internet instructional video illustrating how to construct a bomb in a remote controlled vehicle, such as hobby-sized car, boat or helicopter. Despite his known arrest and ties to potential terrorist activities, MOHAMED was nonetheless granted legal entry into the United States. Both men are Egyptian citizens; MEGAHED is a permanent, legal U.S. resident and MOHAMED is in the U.S. compliments of a student visa. With the news of MOHAMED’S previous arrest in Egypt, questions have arisen concerning proper coordination between all of the federal agencies regarding the granting of student visas and background considerations.
MOHAMED, a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of South Florida, and MEGAHED, an undergraduate student, were charged with transporting explosives without permits, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. MOHAMED was also charged with one count of explosives training, which carries a possible prison sentence of 20 years.
The dwelling at 12402 Pampas Place, Tampa is familiar to investigators. Owned by Noor and Ana SALHAB, the residence was previously leased to the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), one of two groups founded by convicted terrorism supporter Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida, which is the same university that MEGAHED and MOHAMED attended. Both have been suspended from the university pending the outcome of their case.
Noor SALHAB publicly confirmed that his son, Ghassan SALHAB, has been living in the home and renting to college students while waiting to sell it. Noor Salhab said a friend of MOHAMED’S rented a room there, and MOHAMED planned to move in on August 7.
I am beginning to wonder if this was a 'random' stop.
Lombardo also said information from an investigation in another jurisdiction raised the suspicions of the deputies.
USF spokesman Ken Gullette said the university is unaware of any criminal charges against Mohamed in Egypt. Mohamed came to USF on an F-1 student visa, "which means he was cleared by Homeland Security," Gullette said. Homeland Security and State Department officials had no comment.
Question: Does DHS have ability to monitor student visa holders to determine whether visas are simply being used to get into the country?
Chertoff: We do to a limited extent. We rely upon the schools…Most schools try to honor their obligation…some do not…
Both men are charged with transporting explosives without a permit, relating to the stuffed PVC pipes deputies have described as pipe bombs. Hoffer conceded in court, however, that the devices, while explosive, were not pipe bombs and were not 'destructive devices' under the law.
In the trunk, deputies found four small sections of PVC pipe, at least three of which were stuffed with a 'potassium nitrate explosive mixture' of potassium nitrate, Karo syrup and kitty litter, Hoffer said. He said the kitty litter served as a binder to keep the substance from coming out of the pipes, which were not capped.
In a 12-minute video posted on YouTube, an Egyptian man wearing a white shirt, khaki pants and rubber gloves explains in Arabic how to turn a toy boat into a bomb. His name is Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed ~
Mohamed told FBI agents he made the video to teach “those persons in Arabic countries to defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries,” according to federal court documents released late Tuesday. Specifically, he told the FBI “the technology which he demonstrated in the tape was to be used against those who fought for the United States.”
After examining Mohamed’s laptop computer, which was in the 2000 Toyota Camry that was stopped in Goose Creek, agents found an electronic folder titled “Bomb Shock.” The folder contained several computer files about explosives, including TNT and C-4, a military-grade plastic explosive. They also found the 12-minute video on the laptop. Someone had uploaded the video onto YouTube, a video-sharing Web site. It could be found on YouTube by entering a complicated 14-word search term, which included the words “martyrdooms” and “suiciders.”
In the back of the patrol car on the way to jail on charges of possession of an explosive device, the two whispered in their native Arabic while a hidden recorder taped their conversation, according to court documents:
“Did you tell them there is something in them?” Mohamed asked, an apparent reference to the PVC pipes.
“Water,” Megahed said.
“Water! Right? The black water is in the Pepsi.”
A few seconds pass in silence. Mohamed speaks again.
“Did you tell them about the benzene (gasoline)?”
“I have nothing to do with it. I do the fireworks and so... so... so... that is it.”
But the pipes weren’t fireworks.
An examination by the FBI’s explosives unit found the materials in the PVC pipes fit the legal definition of an “explosive.”