LOS ANGELES • The US authorities have charged a man who bought the assault rifles used in the San Bernardino massacre with plotting terror attacks with former neighbour Syed Farook, who was behind the rampage that left 14 people dead.
Enrique Marquez, 24, was charged with conspiring with long-time friend Farook to commit two terrorist attacks in 2011 and 2012, though neither plot was ever carried out.
Marquez was also charged in US District Court on Thursday with the unlawful purchase of the guns used in the Dec 2 shootings carried out by US-born Farook and his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik, as well as the purchase of some of the explosive material used in the attack.
Court papers show that Marquez and Farook had steeped themselves for years in radical and violent Islamist propaganda, including the teachings of extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and bomb-making techniques from an Al-Qaeda magazine.
Marquez, 24, has told investigators that he and Farook had been discussing radical Islam since 2007. They made plans in 2011 and 2012 to launch deadly attacks on the college they had both attended and on a busy freeway. In addition to the terrorism charge, Marquez faces a count of lying on gun purchase forms to conceal that he was really buying them for Farook, and one of defrauding the immigration system by entering into a sham marriage with a Russian immigrant.
The court papers offered the first deep, public look into how Farook, whose parents are from Pakistan, adopted an anti-American view of the world before the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came into existence and before he met his wife.
While leading what looked to the outside world like an ordinary American boyhood in Southern California and elsewhere, Farook began drawing ideas from groups like Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and eventually, the ISIS, to which his wife declared allegiance on the morning of the attack.
Farook also expressed exasperation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and disdain for Muslims who serve in the US military and kill other Muslims, the documents show.
"Marquez conspired with Farook to commit vicious attacks," the US attorney for the central district of California, Ms Eileen Decker, said in a statement. "Even though these plans were not carried out, Marquez's criminal conduct deeply affected San Bernardino County, Southern California and the entire United States when the guns purchased by Marquez were used to kill 14 innocent people and wound many others."
Marquez, who had worked as a security guard at Walmart, appeared in court and was told to return on Monday for a bail hearing. An arraignment was scheduled for Jan 6, when he is expected to enter a plea. The conspiracy charge against Marquez carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and the firearms and visa charges, 10 years each.
Investigators said that a clearly distraught Marquez almost immediately confessed his connection to the crimes to a 911 operator and to his mother, and spent a few days in a hospital psychiatric ward before talking with the FBI. Early on the day after the shooting, he called 911 and said: "My neighbour. He did the San Bernardino shooting."
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE