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Buyer of guns used in massacre charged with terrorism counts

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Los Angeles: The man who bought the assault rifles used by his friend in the San Bernardino massacre has been charged with terrorism-related counts.

The FBI yesterday arrested Enrique Marquez, 24, on charges of conspiring with Syed Rizwan Farook to commit terrorist attacks in 2011 and 2012 that they never carried out. Marquez was Farook’s next-door neighbour and longtime friend who converted to Islam and was radicalised by Farook, federal prosecutors said.

Marquez also was charged with illegally purchasing two assault rifles used by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, to kill 14 people at a holiday gathering of Farook’s health department co-workers on Dec 2. The shooters died hours later in a gunbattle with police.

Marquez had no role in the attack, but prosecutors said the guns and bomb-making materials he bought that the couple planned to detonate linked him to the killings.

“While there currently is no evidence that Mr Marquez participated in the Dec 2 attack or had advance knowledge of it, his prior purchase of the firearms and ongoing failure to warn authorities about Farook’s intent to commit mass murder had fatal consequences,” US Attorney Eileen Decker said.

Authorities previously said Marquez had legally purchased the high-powered guns.

The FBI investigated the rampage as an act of terrorism and said the Muslim couple were radicalised before they met online and communicated privately about jihad and martyrdom before they married.

President Barack Obama said he was briefed on the investigation yesterday and reiterated the federal government’s commitment to find answers to all the unknowns in the case.

Marquez had deep ties with Farook that extended to a family connection. The two grew up next door to each other in Riverside and then became related through marriage.

Both men were witnesses at the wedding of Farook’s brother, Raheel, to a Russian woman in 2011, according to Riverside County marriage records.

Last year, Marquez married the sister of Raheel Farook’s wife. That made Marquez and Raheel Farook brothers-in-law and gave Marquez and Syed Rizwan Farook a sister-in-law in common.

Marquez faces an additional immigration charge for a sham marriage.

Records show that Marquez married Mariya Chernykh at a ceremony at the Islamic Society of Corona-Norco, though the mosque’s facility manager denied it occurred there.