COLUMBIA — FBI Director Robert Mueller on Friday commended South Carolina authorities for quickly alerting federal officials when they arrested two Egyptian college students on explosives charges last year.
"It's an excellent example of the local, state and federal cooperation and is an example of the coordination between the excellent local police activity when the stop was made and understanding the significance of what is found," Mueller told reporters during a visit to the Columbia FBI field office.
Earlier this week, a federal prosecutor disputed a defense attorney's claim that Youssef Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 26, were carrying harmless fireworks when they were stopped in Goose Creek. The University of South Florida students were transferred to federal custody in Florida after a Berkeley County sheriff's deputy found what appeared to be bomb-making materials in the trunk of their car.
Sheriff's Cpl. Lamar Blakely was doing routine traffic control on St. James Avenue on Aug. 4, keeping an eye out for a stolen car, when he turned the blue lights on a Toyota that his incident report said was traveling 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.
"To me, it's just a traffic stop," he said at the time. But as he talked to Megahed and Mohamed, the stories kept changing — where they were coming from, where they were going. "It just didn't seem right." He called in the bomb squad.
Blakely was praised by his superiors and the solicitor for his professionalism.
Megahed and Mohamed have been charged with illegally transporting explosives. Mohamed also faces a terrorism-related charge for allegedly making a video demonstrating how to convert a remote-control toy into a detonator for a bomb.
Megahed's attorney asked a judge Jan. 30 to reconsider bail for his client, citing an FBI report characterizing the items found in the trunk of the car as a pyrotechnic mixture that burned but didn't explode when tested.