Pakistani-origin California shooter’s friend arrested

Washington: A neighbour and friend of Pakistani origin Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in a terror attack in California, has been arrested for allegedly providing material support to terrorists.

Enrique Marquez and Farook allegedly began plotting terror attacks in Southern California in 2011 – “attacks which were, fortunately, not carried out” – and discussed a firearms and explosives attack on Riverside Community College, officials said Thursday.

During a court appearance Thursday, Marquez said that he understood the charges against him and is scheduled for a bail hearing on Monday. Farook and his Pakistani origin wife Tashfeen Malik’s Dec 2 attack on the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino left 14 people dead and another 22 injured. The FBI is investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.

According to authorities, Marquez illegally purchased the two “assault rifles” that were used in the massacre along with a pair of hand guns. He also allegedly bought smokeless powder to make explosives in 2012 and went to firing ranges in Riverside and Los Angeles to practice.

Contact between the two men declined in 2013 and they ceased planning attacks, Marquez allegedly told the authorities. The earlier planned attacks, which the men never ended up carrying out, were allegedly going to be centred around either a library or cafeteria at the Riverside Community College and specific lanes of a major highway during rush hour, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

“The plan was for Farook to throw pipe bombs on to the freeway, which they believed would disable vehicles and stop traffic,” the authorities said. “Farook allegedly planned to then move among stopped vehicles, shooting into them, while Marquez shot into vehicles from a position on a nearby hillside.

“Marquez allegedly said that he would watch for law enforcement and emergency vehicles, and his priority was to shoot law enforcement before shooting life-saving personnel.” Officials also accused him of “defrauding immigration authorities by entering into a sham marriage with a member of Farook’s family”.

The marriage in question was Marquez’s marriage to “a member of Farook’s extended family so that she could obtain legal status in the United States”, the Department of Justice press release stated. In return for agreeing to the marriage, Marquez was paid $200 per month.

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