Investigators have removed computers from the family home of a University of South Florida student accused of having pipe bombs in his car, said Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
He said the FBI had contacted the parents of Yousseff Samir Megahed, 4959 Anniston Circle, Tampa, while they were on vacation and got permission to search their home. When they returned, their computers were gone.
Megahed is one of two USF students arrested near a naval base in South Carolina over the weekend. The family of the other student questioned why the men are being held on such a high bail amount.
"They know their son is innocent," said professor M. Nachabe, faculty advisor for student Ahmed A. Mohamed, after speaking by telephone with the man's parents in Egypt.
Many questions remained in the case of Mohamed, 2107 E Nedro Road, Tampa, an engineering graduate student, and Megahed, a 21-year-old undergraduate.
Mohamed's age is listed variously as 24 and 26 in law enforcement records.
The men were arrested Saturday afternoon in Goose Creek, S.C., on charges of possession of an explosive device. After a prosecutor argued the men were flight risks, a judge set bail at $500,000 for Mohamed and $300,000 for Megahed.
FBI not talking
The FBI declined to discuss the case. An arrest affidavit from the sheriff's office of Berkeley County South Carolina says that Mohamed told deputies he made the devices from components he bought at Wal-Mart.
The men told deputies that the explosives were fireworks, according to Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said the FBI had gone to a store for surveillance footage, but she declined to say which store or what is on the tape.
"The FBI has been to a store and picked up video tape," she said. "It's an open investigation. I don't think it would be appropriate to respond to specific questions."
It remained unclear Tuesday exactly why the men were in rural South Carolina or if they had a destination.
Neither man has a criminal record, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
On July 24, Tampa police accused Mohamed of illegally shooting squirrels in an east Tampa park. Police say he and Ahmad A. Ishtay, 19, used a pellet gun to shoot the animals in Rowlette Park.
Both were issued citations for discharging a firearm and using an illegal method of taking game, according to a report. The case has not been resolved, court records show.
"He invited me," Ishtay said of his reasons to go to the park with Mohamed.
Who are they?
Ishtay, who rents a Temple Terrace house and works at Boston Market, said he met Mohamed and Megahed through a roommate and didn't know either well.
Ishtay said he didn't know the roommate's last name. But he said the man was from Mauritania.
Another of Ishtay's roommates, Ghassan Salhab, 27, said the man from Mauritania had moved here from Canada recently, and left for Canada on Monday.
Ishtay and Salhab said that sometimes when Mohamed and Megahed visited their house in Temple Terrace they would cook, but neither knew them well.
Megahed's family did not return a message for comment.
Mohamed's family lives in Egypt, but his faculty advisor said they're well aware of the situation and working for their son's release, asking the Egyptian consulate for help.
Nachabe said Mohamed is studying for his doctorate in civil engineering and got all A's in his recent courses after attending a prestigious Egyptian university.
"He comes from a good family in Egypt," Nachabe said. "His father is also an engineer in Egypt. As I said, their son is here to study. He was on vacation."
Nachabe believes the situation has been blown out of proportion.
"If he's innocent, and I think he is, they should apologize," he said of law enforcement and the media. "They blew it out of proportion. My gut feeling says he's innocent, that he has nothing to do with terrorism."
News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or email@example.com.