Criminal complaint illuminates San Bernardino gunman’s ties to Islamic militarism

Riverside County court security officers stand guard after federal officials transported Enrique Marquez to a hearing, where he was charged in connection with two unfulfilled terrorism plots with the San Bernardino gunman.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Syed Rizwan Farook’s Riverside home was a storage locker of twisted inspiration.

It was there that he studied the magazine published by Al Qaeda that explained how to blow up a crowd of people and spent his days absorbed in conversation about Islamic extremism with his friend Enrique Marquez Jr.

It was there, too, that Farook — who, along with his wife, killed 14 people in San Bernardino this month — watched videos produced by a terrorist cell in Somalia.

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Details about Farook’s links to radical Islamic ideology came into clearer focus Thursday in a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors against Marquez, his former next-door neighbor in Riverside. The 37-page document provides a fuller picture about the Dec. 2 attack and shows that Farook was attracted to teachings about violent Islamic militarism several years before he married Tashfeen Malik.

In 2011, according to the document, Marquez spent most of his time at Farook’s house, where they read and listened to lectures and videos involving radical ideology. They spent time studying Inspire Magazine, the official publication of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, and videos by Shabab, the group’s affiliate in Somalia.

The summer 2010 edition of the magazine included instructions, both notes and photos, on how to use pipes, powder and the filament inside Christmas lights to make an explosive device.

Farook, according to the complaint, often discussed the teachings and beliefs of Anwar Awlaki, an American-born cleric who became a director of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula before he was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

In the footnotes of the criminal document, an FBI special agent said lectures by Awlaki helped inspire terrorist plots across the Western world, including the 2005 London subway bombing, the 2010 Times Square attempted bombing and the 2012 plot to bomb the New York Federal Reserve.

The complaint also states that in the early months of 2009, Farook told Marquez that he was interested in joining the U.S. armed services, saying he was especially disgruntled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Farook’s thoughts evolved after the November 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood in which U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who had been in direct contact with Awlaki, shot and killed 13 people, the complaint said.


By August 2011, Farook was telling his neighbor that he was interested in joining Al Qaeda in Yemen, the complaint said.

Soon afterward, Marquez told investigators, the pair began plotting attacks on Riverside City College, where both spent time as students, and a portion of the 91 Freeway, according to the complaint.

Marquez allegedly admitted to federal investigators that he bought two rifles to carry out the plans as well as powder to make explosive devices. Bank records appear to show that Farook reimbursed him for the weapons, an FBI agent said in the complaint.

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The plots, however, were never carried out. Marquez told investigators that he began distancing himself from Farook sometime around 2012 and had no involvement in the attack this month at the Inland Regional Center.

The complaint gives a few new details about the day of the shooting.

That morning, sometime around 8:45 a.m., Malik searched social media for material relating to Islamic State, the complaint said.


A few minutes later, Farook arrived at the center, on South Waterman Avenue. Inside, many of his co-workers had gathered for a training event and holiday party.

He walked in and set a black duffel bag on a table. It contained, according to the complaint, a homemade explosive device made of steel pipe bombs and green wire attached to a remote-control toy car that allowed it to be triggered from a distance.

The detonator consisted of an improvised system of bulbs cut from a string of Christmas lights.

About 10:37 a.m., Farook walked out of the event and drove away in a black SUV.

He returned at 10:58 a.m. with his wife. At least one of them went into the building and sprayed bullets into the party crowd.

Around 11:15 a.m., after the couple had fled, a post appeared on a Facebook page linked to Malik referring to the self-styled “caliph” of Islamic State, Abu Bakr Baghdadi.

“We pledge allegiance,” it read, “to Khalifa bu bkr al bhaghdadi al quraishi.”

Sometime after 3 p.m., law enforcement officers discovered the couple in a black SUV several miles away from the center and, after a chase, killed them in a gun battle.


Inside the SUV, police found the rifles along with other guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. They also found the remote for a toy car.
Twitter: @marisagerber


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