IS link uncovered in California shooting: reports
The report comes two days after the carnage at an office year-end party in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 21 others wounded — the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the Newtown school massacre in 2012.
While authorities have publicly cautioned it is too soon to call Wednesday’s carnage a terror attack, reports suggested Syed Farook, a 28-year-old US-born Muslim, and his 27-year-old Pakistani wife Malik may have been radicalized.
Reports suggested the couple may have been motivated by the IS group, which declared the creation of an Islamic “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria after seizing large swathes of territory there — but not specifically directed to act.
“At this point we believe they were more self-radicalized and inspired by the group than actually told to do the shooting,” one federal law enforcement official told The New York Times.
One US official familiar with the investigation said Malik had posted her allegiance to Baghdadi on Facebook under an account with a different name during the attack, CNN reported. MSNBC quoted another official saying the post came “just before the attack.”
Officials did not explain to CNN how they knew Malik was responsible for the post. The post has since been deleted from Facebook, the Times said.
– Radicalized? –
Farook and Malik were killed Wednesday in a wild firefight with police hours after the attack — and relatives were at a loss to explain how the young couple with a baby girl could have donned black tactical gear and shot at dozens of people.
“I can never imagine my brother or my sister-in-law doing something like this. Especially because they were happily married, they had a beautiful six-month-old daughter,” Farook’s sister Saira Khan told CBS News.
“It’s just mind-boggling why they would do something like this.”
Fox News reported that investigators believe there is a “very serious” possibility that Malik had radicalized her husband, who was a health inspector for San Bernardino county.
Farook attended the office party at a social services center for the disabled before apparently getting into an argument, and then returning with Malik — both armed with assault weapons — and opening fire.
Investigators later found thousands of rounds of ammunition at the couple’s home, as well as a veritable bomb-making laboratory, with 12 pipe bomb-like devices already constructed.
Another explosive device was found at the scene of the shooting, but failed to go off.
“There was obviously a mission here,” said David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office.
“We don’t know if this was the intended target or if there was something that triggered him to do this immediately.”
– Combing through evidence –
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken charge of the probe into the shooting.
Law enforcement officials quoted by The New York Times said the FBI was treating the shooting as a potential terrorist act, but the idea of a workplace dispute gone wrong has not been ruled out.
CNN, quoting officials, said Farook had been in contact with known terror suspects overseas and had become radicalized after marrying Malik in Saudi Arabia last year, although an imam at a mosque Farook attended said he showed no signs of that.
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 Times said.
One lawyer for the couple’s family said links between Farook and potential terror suspects were “tenuous” at best.
“We’ve met with the FBI and, you know, someone has alluded to the fact that they found something on his computer,” one lawyer, David Chesley, told CNN.
“He may have talked to somebody who talked to — or spoken with somebody on the computer who viewed something about ISIS, but it’s like, it’s so tenuous, there’s nothing really there.”
– ‘Not afraid’ –
Authorities identified the victims as six women and eight men ranging in age from 26 to 60. All but two were county employees and colleagues of Farook.
Up to 3,000 people attended a vigil Thursday evening in honor of the victims, lighting candles and listening to memorial speeches.
“This is a tragedy but we must show that we are not afraid,” said Dorothy Andrews, 74, who was among those who turned out at the city’s San Manuel Stadium.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on the Republican-controlled Congress to pass tougher gun control measures in the face of a spiral of mass shootings in the United States.
Acquaintances told AFP that Farook did not seem to have extremist views and was living “the American dream” with his wife and baby daughter.
“He was married, he had a daughter and last year he made $77,000,” said Gasser Shehata, 42, who attended the same mosque as Farook.
“He had everything to be happy.”