Sunday, August 12, 2007

Megahed's Dad Explains the Pipe-Bomb Traffic Stop

The case of the USF students accused of transporting pipe-bombs (and a mysterious liquid) continues to grow curiouser and curiouser.

Federal agents executed a search warrant at a house in Tampa in connection with the students' arrest.

The home -- 12402 Pampas Place -- has been linked to a couple of the FBI's most wanted terrorists: Ramadan Shallah and Tarik Hamdi.

The father of one of the suspects, Samir Megahed, met with his son in the Berkeley County, SC detention center. After the meeting, the elder Megahed told reporters, "we now believe more than before in the innocence of Youssef in this matter, and feel this incident is all a big misunderstanding."

He said his son often kept the following items in his trunk, which may have led to the confusion:

1) A gas canister, for refueling
2) Charcoal, a small barbecue grill, and lighter fluid, for cookouts. He "liked to grill chicken and beef with friends."
3) Tools and chemicals to clean the tools for working on an old Lexus.
4) Scuba gear, because Youssef "enjoyed scuba diving."

The contents of a typical car trunk. At least, for friends of Ramadan Shallah.

That's an eminently plausible explanation. I mean, how could anyone question a couple of kids storing oxygen tanks, gas canisters, lighter fluid, charcoal, igniters, fuses, potassium nitrate, sugar, and other chemicals in an automobile trunk -- oh, along with some pointy tools, a "mystery" liquid, and PVC pipes that prosecutors termed pipe bombs? I mean, that all sounds perfectly harmless to me.

More: Atlas and Dan Riehl have been on this case from the get-go.

Update: Stratfor seems quite cynical about the suspect items.

Potassium nitrate (or saltpeter) is the oxidizer used in the manufacture of black powder. When potassium nitrate is mixed with sugar and confined -- as in a PVC or metal pipe, thermos bottle or tin can, for instance -- it will function as a low explosive. Indeed, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) manufactured from potassium nitrate are common in many parts of the world. Hobby fuses and rocket igniters could be used to activate such a device...

Another potentially incriminating item in this case is the gasoline can found in the trunk of the car. Gasoline, which has no application in model rocketry, can be combined with the other materials seized to create an explosive-actuated incendiary device -- which can be more destructive than a pipe bomb alone.

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