San Bernardino terrorists allegedly studied AQAP’s Inspire magazine, pledged allegiance to Baghdadi

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that it has brought charges against Enrique Marquez Jr., “a longtime friend of Syed Rizwan Farook, the male shooter in the San Bernardino, California” terrorist attack.

Marquez was charged “with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists based upon his role in terrorist plotting with Farook in 2011 and 2012, the unlawful purchase of the two assault rifles used in the deadly shooting two weeks ago and defrauding immigration authorities by entering into a sham marriage with a member of Farook’s family.”

Marquez has not been charged with playing any direct role in the Dec. 2 massacre at the Inland Regional Center, where 14 people were killed and more than 20 others injured.

The most interesting details in the DOJ’s announcement concern the evolution of the San Bernardino terrorist’s jihadist beliefs.

According to the DOJ, Farook was initially influenced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)’s Inspire magazine and the teachings of Anwar al Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011. But on the day of the attack, Farook and his wife, Tafsheen Malik, apparently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al Baghdadi on social media.

AQAP remains loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s overall leader, and is opposed to the Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate.” Yet, it appears that both organizations played a role in wooing the couple to the jihadist ideology. The Islamic State’s stunning successes in 2014, when the organization captured large swaths of Iraq, may have captured their attention. Many jihadist recruits began to support Baghdadi’s group, because of its battlefield gains and claim to rule as a legitimate Islamic authority.

Farook “introduced Marquez to radical Islamic ideology” after helping Marquez convert to Islam, according to DOJ. Farook expressed his “disdain towards Muslims” in the US military “who killed other Muslims,” and discussed “the extremist views of the now-deceased imam and Islamic lecturer Anwar al [Awlaki].”

Awlaki encouraged Muslims in the US military to attack their fellow soldiers, citing their participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Awlaki portrayed US forces as the aggressor, saying American soldiers were killing Muslims and it was the duty of any Muslim in the US or elsewhere to retaliate. In reality, al Qaeda and its branch in Iraq at the time were responsible for significant Muslim casualties.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 people and wounded 32 more during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas in Nov. 2009, is the most infamous of Awlaki’s disciples. Hasan believed, as Awlaki advocated, that his fellow soldiers should be punished for participating in the 9/11 wars overseas.

After introducing Marquez to Islam, according to the DOJ, Farook “provided Marquez with radical Islamic materials.” By 2011, “Marquez spent most of his time at Farook’s residence listening to lectures and watching videos involving radical Islamic content.” The jihadist propaganda they shared included AQAP’s Inspire Magazine, which has consistently encouraged attacks by individual jihadists with no formal connections to terrorist groups, and “videos produced by” Shabaab.

Both AQAP and Shabaab are official regional branches of al Qaeda’s international organization.

In August 2011, “Farook informed Marquez of his interest in joining AQAP in Yemen.” Later that same year, the pair allegedly began to plot terrorist attacks using pipe bombs and other weapons. They considered targeting the “library or cafeteria at Riverside Community College (RCC), where both men had been students” and vehicles on a highway.

They plotted into 2012, but decided not to act. However, forensic testing has confirmed that “two rifles” Marquez purchased for Farook during this period “were used in the attack” on the Inland Regional Center.

Farook and Malik built improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to use in their terrorist attacks. Investigators found that Marquez purchased a “smokeless powder” in 2011 and he has “allegedly stated” to authorities that it was to be used in an “explosive device.” A search of Farook’s residence “led to the discovery” of this same “smokeless powder.”

In interviews with authorities, Marquez “described his familiarity with the use of remote-control devices to detonate IEDs, and said he and Farook reviewed instructions on how to make IEDs that were in Inspire Magazine.” A remote-controlled IED, described as a “pipe bomb constructed out of three galvanized steel pipes and smokeless powder that was armed and ready to detonate,” was discovered in the Inland Regional Center. And a “remote control was found in the sports utility vehicle” used by Farook and Malik as well.

Investigators found that on “the morning of the shooting, a Facebook account associated with Malik searched for materials related to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).”

Not long after the shooting, a “post on a Facebook page associated with Malik” contained the following oath: “We pledge allegiance to Khalifa bu bkr al bhaghdadi al quraishi.”

The US government has determined that this was an oath of allegiance to Baghdadi, who is often addressed as Khalifa Abu Bakr al Baghdadi al Quraishi.

The Islamic State encourages its followers to swear allegiance to Baghdadi before dying, because his “caliphate” is supposedly the only legitimate Islamic authority in the world today. The jihadists argue that if a Muslim dies in a state of “disobedience,” then the fires of hell await. The Islamic State has made this argument repeatedly in its English-language Dabiq magazine, which is very similar to AQAP’s Inspire. [See LWJ report, Why the Islamic State tells supporters to swear allegiance before dying.]

Therefore, the San Bernardino terrorists’ oath of fealty to Baghdadi is consistent with what the Islamic State tells its supporters to do.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

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3 Comments

  • James says:

    The fact of the matter is that ISIS began in Iraq/Syria. Had we left just a minimal footprint of forces in Iraq, and had we been more forceful in the removal of a$$ad, this whole nightmare going on over there would have never occurred (including the refugee crisis now sweeping Europe). And, it would have never spread to Libya and other parts of the African continent as it now has, since it would have been halted at its origins and roots.

    Even in the early days of the Syrian conflict, a$$ad served as the ‘poster child’ for the jihadist recruiters. ISIS was created in the vacuum of instability in Iraq/Syria, with the critical help of a$$ad’s remaining in power. If you want to blame anyone for the ‘creation of ISIS’, we should blame a$$ad and those feckless policy wonks that have permitted this deplorable situation to develop. For years now, you have been providing nothing but the equivalent of band aids to the a$$ad resistance.

    To those policy wonks who try to argue that [so-called] ‘regime change’ led to ISIS, if anything, they are more responsible for the development of ISIS than the other way around. It all started in Syria. Then it spread to Libya. Then it spread to other parts of the African continent.

    To those of you who look to Putin as being your ‘savior’ in this thing, all I can say is that your hopes couldn’t be more misdirected. Here’s a guy that has whined more about 2 Russian pilots being killed in Syria, than he has about a civilian jetliner being blown out of the sky with more than 200 of his own people by terrorists. What does that say of the character of this individual?

  • Arjuna says:

    Why did the spell their Caliph’s like that? To throw off the FBI and NSA?

    Anyone else think the multiple, recent school threats were written by a Pakistani hoaxer (terrorist)? No one outside of South Asia would use the verb “monger”. I’d look for people with Farook family values.

    Inspire is a problem because they are creating paint-by-numbers terrorism manuals. Luckily detonators are tricky and they keep screwing up. They will be releasing their “tried and tested” recipes for chemical weapons online soon.

  • Jim Waurishuk, Colonel, USAF (Ret.) says:

    Excellent piece – well done. Thank you.

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