TAMPA, Fla. – An Egyptian college student pleaded guilty Wednesday to making a video demonstrating how to build a remote bomb detonator to help terrorists kill enemies including American soldiers.
Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, 26, one of two University of South Florida students arrested after a South Carolina traffic stop in August, pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. He faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.
The arrests perpetuated the Tampa university's reputation as "Jihad U," a nickname coined after an Egyptian professor, Sami Al-Arian, was charged with raising money for terrorist attacks by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He pleaded guilty to one count of providing support to terrorists and is in jail awaiting deportation.
Mohamed and fellow Egyptian student Youssef Samir Megahed were arrested after deputies stopped them for speeding near Charleston, S.C., and found what they described as pipe bombs in the trunk.
Deputies also found a laptop with a 12-minute video that had been uploaded to the video-sharing Web site YouTube.
In the video, Mohamed demonstrates how to convert a remote-controlled car from Wal-Mart into a bomb detonator. He speaks in Arabic, saying he wants to teach "martyrdoms" and "suiciders" how to save themselves so they can continue to fight invaders.
"Instead of the brethren going to, to carry out martyrdom operations, no, may God bless him, he can use the explosion tools from a distance and preserve his life ... for the real battles," he says, according to a translation in the plea agreement.
Dressed in worn orange jail scrubs, the bearded Mohamed answered "yes" Wednesday when U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo asked if he understood the terms of the plea agreement, which included dismissal of six other charges. Pizzo told him he will eventually be deported.
One of Mohamed's attorneys, Linda Moreno, said he accepted the deal because he faced a maximum life sentence if convicted of all charges at trial.
Prosecutors acknowledged in court that they didn't know of anybody victimized by Mohamed's making of the video. They declined comment after the hearing.
Megahed is awaiting trial on federal charges of transporting explosives and possession of a destructive device. The 22-year-old was not charged in connection with the video.
Prosecutors have not produced any evidence showing the men planned illegal activity, but they were stopped near a naval weapons stations in Charleston. The men said they ended up in Goose Creek, S.C., looking for cheap gas at a Wal-Mart station.
The men told authorities they were on a road trip to see the Carolina beaches. Mohamed said the items in the trunk — PVC pipes containing a mixture of sugar, potassium nitrate and cat litter, along with fuses — were ingredients for homemade fireworks.
Mohamed and Megahed both have said that Megahed didn't know anything about the items. Megahed's trial is on hold after prosecutors appealed a judge's decision to toss out some evidence. His attorney said he hopes prosecutors will drop the charges.
Mohamed was a civil engineering graduate student who came to USF in January 2007 on a student visa. Megahed is a permanent U.S. resident who lives in Tampa with his family.