The suspects, identified as Brian Larue and Eric Murray, each face charges of possession of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy and risking a catastrophe, as well as numerous minor charges, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Thursday.
The explosives and tools discovered in the van were the type commonly used to try to dismantle ATMs in order to steal the cash inside, FOX 29 of Philadelphia reported.
Police found the van after pursuing what authorities described as a suspicious convoy of vehicles leaving a hotel parking lot. Officers spotted some of the vehicles trying to ram through a barricade at the parking lot of a Target store, FOX 29 reported.
While officers further pursued the vehicles, officers said the van pulled over and the driver tried to remove tape that had been covering a license plate. Officers then stopped the vehicle near Logan Circle, discovered the explosives inside the vehicle and made the arrests.
Separately, authorities told FOX 29 that at least 16 U-Haul trucks were reported stolen late Wednesday night or early Thursday from two locations in North Philadelphia.
Police said they have seen a wave of ATM thefts this year in which suspects vandalize the machines using low-grade explosives. At least nine such incidents have occurred this week alone, authorities told the station.
Wednesday’s arrests occurred as city police have also been dealing with multiple nights of rioting in reaction to the fatal shooting by police of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old man with a history of mental health problems.
The unrest has included looting at more than 200 stores in the city, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
As of Thursday afternoon, police had arrested more than 200 people since Monday in connection with the rioting, Philadelphia’s Patch site reported.