Posted on February 16, 2017

San Bernardino Gunman Plotted to Kill Americans for Eight Years – and Friend He Groomed Into Radical Islam Planned String of Terror Attacks With Him

Ruth Styles, Daily Mail, February 16, 2017

New details of the San Bernardino shooter’s lengthy preparations for mass murder can be revealed for the first time ahead of a court appearance by his accomplice on Thursday.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 29, groomed his teenage neighbor Enrique Marquez Jr – turning him into a fanatical Muslim and plotted a number of attacks with the former Walmart security guard over an eight-year period.

The extraordinary length of time for which Farook plotted terror raises new questions over exactly how he was not caught – and also whether he or his wife – a Pakistani-born immigrant – were the prime movers in the December 2015 murder of 14.

One target considered by Farook and Marquez was the 91 Freeway, which was to be the scene of a rush hour shooting and saw Marquez make preparatory visits to gun ranges in Riverside and Los Angeles, both in California.

Another plot hatched by Marquez involved setting off pipe bombs in the cafeteria at Riverside City College and mowing down students as they attempted to escape, he told the FBI.

Other court documents seen by reveal how Farook began the process of turning Marquez into a religious fanatic shortly after his family moved in next door in 2005 – when Marquez was just 14.

After Marquez converted in 2007, aged 16, Farook introduced his friend to the teachings of radical American cleric Anwar al Awlaki, who died in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

Al Awlaki, a member of al Qaeda, was notorious for running terrorist training camps and helped prepare so-called underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound plane using explosives concealed in his pants in 2009.

The pair also discussed the al Awklaki-inspired Fort Hood shooting, which saw psychologist Major Nidal Hasan murder 13 during a bloody rampage on a Texas army base, also in 2009.

Marquez, who is currently being held at a maximum security prison in Los Angeles, has also given a full account of his movements on December 2 2015.

It was on the morning of December 2 that Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik, 30, burst into a Christmas party in San Bernardino and murdered 14 of Farook’s colleagues.

Marquez has confessed to purchasing the materials used to make the crude bombs left behind by the couple as they fled the scene, including the Christmas lights used as part of the devices.

At the time, the terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center, a social services facility, was the worst to take place on US soil since 9/11.

Emails uncovered by the FBI and police between Farook and Malik show that she was upset about him attending a mandatory training session which was followed by a Christmas party on the grounds that he was a Muslim.

That had led to speculation that Malik was the more radical of the pair – but Marquez’s confession reveals a lengthy and organized effort by Farook to commit terror, long before he married Malik.

Marquez, whose guilty plea was lodged with Riverside Federal Court on Tuesday, will now appear in person on Thursday to make a formal declaration in front of a judge.

He had already confessed to one firearms charge but will also plead guilty to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

Marquez also stands accused on one count of immigration fraud, arising from his sham marriage to Farook’s Russian sister-in-law.

Mariya Chernykh, who has two children with another US citizen named Oscar Romero, allegedly paid the 25-year-old $200 a month to marry her. The status of that charge is still to be determined.

If the plea deal is accepted, he will receive a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, a lifetime supervision order following his release and a fine of $500,000.

It is unclear what sentence federal prosecutors will ask for.

Marquez and Farook first encountered each other after the younger man’s family moved into a house next door to the San Bernardino killer in 2005.

The pair swiftly became close and, according to court documents, by the end of the first year, Farook – who was then 19 – had begun his campaign to convert Marquez to Islam.

In late 2005, Marquez, who regularly spent time with Farook in his garage, made his first visit to a mosque in the California town of Corona, approximately 15 miles from his home.

Guided by Farook, Marquez became interested in the Tablighi Jamaat; a missionary form of Sunni Islam which has approximately 150 million adherents worldwide.

Shortly afterwards, the 25-year-old began praying regularly with Farook at his home in Riverside and in 2007, converted to Islam.

In 2009, Farook, whose brother Syed Raheel served in the US Navy, told Marquez he was contemplating joining the army but reconsidered after the Fort Hood massacre.

According to Marquez, the future killer said he felt ‘disdain’ towards Muslim soldiers who kill other Muslims – and described himself as ‘disgruntled’ over the progress of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In 2010, Marquez, who was by then becoming almost as radical as his friend, began listening to The Hereafter, a series of lectures by Al-Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, was a leading light in Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula – a group responsible for a number of terror attacks targeted at the US, Saudi Arabia and South Korea among others.

Along with preparing the Underwear Bomber for terror, Al-Awlaki preached to three of the 9/11 attackers and corresponded with Fort Hood killer Hasan in the run-up to the 2009 massacre.

His eight-year-old daughter, Nawar, was also among those killed in the botched commando strike ordered by President Trump in Yemen on January 29.

Marquez also became increasingly beguiled with the idea of living under Sharia law and, by his own admission, became fascinated with the work of Islamic scholar Imran Hossein.

Farook helped to speed up the radicalization process by supplying Marquez with radical Islamic literature; including Inspire Magazine, the official publication of Al Qaeda, and videos produced by Somali terror group Al Shabaab.

According to Marquez, Farook revealed his plans to join Al-Awlaki’s branch of Al Qaeda in August 2011 – shortly before the pair began planning terror attacks of their own.

Although the pair are thought to have begun plotting mayhem in October 2011, Marquez took his first real step towards terror in the following month when he made his first gun purchase.

On that occasion, he spent $741.52 on a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle. A second followed in February 2012, with Marquez spending $758.75 on a DPMS model A-15 firearm.

Both were later used in the San Bernardino attack.

Marquez also bought a bottle of smokeless powder – a type of gunpowder – which was later used to make the crude bombs deployed in the December 2 outrage.

The two then turned their attention to ‘mass casualty’ targets. According to court papers, the first to be considered for an attack was Riverside City College where Marquez was twice enrolled as a student – between 2009 and 2011 and 2013 and 2015.

Described as ‘an agreement between Rizwan [Farook] and the defendant [Marquez]’, the plot would have seen the pair throw pipe bombs into the cafeteria from an upper floor.

In a chilling echo of the 2015 attack on the Inland Revenue Center, the duo planned to sneak away after causing carnage inside and carry out a shooting in another part of the building.

After discarding that idea, the pair then decided to focus on the 91 Freeway and planned a mass shooting timed to coincide with rush hour.

Marquez planned to position himself in the hills south of the road as a look out for Farook who would begin the attack by throwing pipe bombs.

Afterwards, both men planned to shoot into stopped cars – although Marquez says he would have prioritized law enforcement and emergency responders.

In preparation for the planned attacks, the pair made repeated trips to gun ranges in Los Angeles and Riverside between February and June 2012.

The two also learned how to make IEDs with the help of Inspire Magazine and discussed plans to make bombs using remote controlled cars – a model used by Farook during the 2015 attack.

But, according to Marquez, the pair began to grow apart towards the end of 2012 and, he says, ceased plotting attacks as a pair altogether.

Despite being less close to Farook than he had once been, in November 2014, Marquez agreed to enter into a sham marriage with Maria Chernykh, the sister of Farook’s Russian sister-in-law.

The marriage, made for immigration purposes, brought him regular monthly payments of $200. He also continued to have semi-regular contact with Farook until the day of the December 2 massacre.

On the day of the San Bernardino attack, Walmart employee Marquez was at work but called 911 the following day – although not before making a bizarre social media post.

The 25-year-old, who now faces the prospect of spending most of his life behind bars, posted on Facebook on the night of the attack that it ‘was a pleasure knowing everyone’.

In a police transcript of the call the following day, Marquez said he wanted to commit suicide, before adding: ‘My neighbor [Farook]. He did the San Bernardino shooting.

He added: ‘He was the shooter. The f***ing a**hole used my gun in the shooting.’

Later the same day, he checked himself into the UCLA Harbor Medical Center in Torrance, California, having first consumed nine bottles of beer.

According to medical personnel, he appeared ‘anxious’ and was later placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold.

It was while at the UCLA facility that he was apprehended by the FBI on December 5 after confessing ‘I’m involved’ to an agent on the scene.

Marquez first appeared in court on December 21 2015 where he was denied bail, despite his parents offering to put up the $100,000 bond.

Since then, he has been incarcerated at MDC Los Angeles, a 749-bed maximum security federal prison ahead of a trial that was due to begin on March 21 in Riverside.

On February 14, lawyers entered a guilty plea on firearms and terrorism offences – a stance that will be formally repeated by Marquez in person when he appears.

If the judge rejects Marquez’ attempt at a plea deal, he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in jail when the case goes to trial.