U.S. officials are bringing federal charges against two Egyptian engineering students who were detained near a naval facility in South Carolina, carrying what authorities describe as pipe bombs in their car.
The two men, students at a university in Florida, have been in jail since their arrest four weeks ago. They told police the objects in their car were fireworks.
An indictment by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida, charges Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed and Youssef Samir Megahed with illegally transporting explosives. In addition, Mohamed is charged with distributing information about building and using an explosive device for criminal purposes.
Authorities in South Carolina stopped Mohamed and Megahed for speeding on August 4, about 10 kilometers from a Navy base that also houses a military prison for suspected terrorists.
Mohamed, a graduate student of civil engineering and a teaching assistant at the University of South Florida, faces the more serious of the two charges in the indictment, "distributing information about building and using an explosive device." Although no further details have been released, U.S. officials say he "taught and demonstrated the making and use of an explosive and destructive device," which was to be used in a crime of violence. The charge is considered an act of terrorism, and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
In Washington, U.S. Justice Department officials said Friday, "The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless [they are] proven guilty."