A US-born Muslim who along with his wife gunned down 14 people in California may have been radicalised and had been in contact with known terrorism suspects
The FBI is now treating the shooting “a terrorist act”. Government sources have said, however, that investigators have no evidence that the shooting was directed or organised by the Islamic State group.
Tashfeen Malik, 27, and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, were killed in a shootout with police hours after the Wednesday massacre at the Inland Regional Center social services agency in San Bernardino, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.
CNN reported on Friday that one US official said Malik, who was born in Pakistan, had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a posting on Facebook made on Wednesday, the day of the attack, under an account that used a different name. The attack appeared to be inspired by, but not necessarily directed by, the Islamic State group, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.
CNN, quoting officials, said Farook had been in contact with known terror suspects overseas and had become radicalised after marrying Malik in Saudi Arabia last year, although an imam at a local mosque he attended said Farook showed no signs of that.
Malik and Farook had spent time destroying computer hard drives and other electronics before embarking on their rampage Wednesday, a US government source said.
The FBI – who were scouring cell phones and a computer hard drive of the couple – had evidence that Farook had communicated with extremists domestically and abroad a few years ago, the Los Angeles Times said, citing a senior federal government official briefed on the investigation. This official was also quoted as saying there are indications he communicated with at least one person being monitored as a potential terror suspect.
Farook’s connection to that person may only be tangential, the source said, but the link suggests there may be a “deeper terror matrix” behind the California shootings, the official said.
Investigators are also looking into a report that Farook had engaged in an argument with a co-worker who denounced the “inherent dangers of Islam”, a US government source said.
Pakistani intelligence officials have contacted Malik’s family in her homeland as part of the investigation, a family member said.
Up to 3,000 people attended a vigil Thursday evening in honor of the victims, lighting candles and listening to memorial speeches.
President Barack Obama, who ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until Monday, said a terror attack could not be ruled out, but also cautioned against jumping to conclusions.
“At this stage, we do not yet know why the terrible event occurred,” said Obama, who has repeatedly called on the Republican-controlled Congress to pass tougher gun control measures, after a string of mass shootings across the United States in recent years.
“It is possible that this was terrorist related, but we don’t know. It’s also possible that this was workplace-related.”
The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the 2012 assault on an elementary school in Connecticut left 26 people dead, including 20 children.