San Bernardino shooters had been radicalised for ‘some time,’ FBI says

December 8, 2015 6:52 am

Investigation into shooters’ background tries to find out if a group had influenced their beliefs.

The California couple who killed 14 people last week at an office
holiday party had been adherents of a radical strain of Islam for “some
time,” the FBI said Monday as investigators raced to assemble a clearer
picture of how the attack was planned.
David Bowdich, assistant
director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said
investigators have yet to determine whether Syed Rizwan Farook, a
28-year-old county health inspector, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29,
had been drawn into violent extremism by someone they knew or whether
they had developed those beliefs on their own.
“Both subjects
were radicalized and have been for quite some time,” Bowdich said at a
conference here. “How did that happen and by whom and where did
that happen? I will tell you right now, we don’t know those answers at
this point.”



The FBI was working Monday to confirm reports that Malik, who
was born in Pakistan, had ties to Islamabad’s Red Mosque, which is
notorious for its connections to Islamic fundamentalism, an FBI official
said. Mosque officials have denied any association with her.
Whatever
the roots of their beliefs, the couple had prepared carefully for the
attack, Bowdich said, visiting local shooting ranges to practice their
aim as recently as a few days before the massacre.
The Dec. 2
shooting, which also wounded 21, was the deadliest act of on
U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The attack has renewed debate over the
nation’s gun laws and sparked criticism of President Obama’s campaign
against militant groups.
Bowdich said the federal investigation
into the shooting is “massive in scale.” So far, authorities have
interviewed more than 400 people and collected more than 300 pieces of
evidence.
But critical questions remain. Officials have yet to
uncover any indication that the attack was plotted with help from
overseas, Bowdich said. Nor do they know whether anyone in this country
other than Farook and Malik took part in the planning. The couple died
in a shootout with police four hours after they opened fire at a
conference center in San Bernardino.



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On Monday, federal authorities confirmed that Farook’s
former neighbor, Enrique Marquez, legally purchased in California the
military-grade rifles used in the attack and provided them to Farook. By
the time of the attack, the rifles – semiautomatic AR-15s manufactured
by DPMS and Smith & Wesson – had been altered for greater lethality.
Marquez,
29, works as a security guard at Walmart and had lived next door to the
Farook family for years. The two men shared a love of automobiles,
according to neighbors interviewed this week, who said Marquez and
Farook could sometimes be seen working on cars together in the
neighborhood.
Marquez checked himself into a mental health
facility Friday. Authorities said he has since checked out and been
questioned by the FBI, which is interested in learning when and why he
provided the guns to Farook and whether he had any knowledge of the
plot.
Bowdich also clarified that authorities recovered 19 pipes
that could be used to assemble homemade bombs during a search of the
couple’s home in nearby Redlands, Calif., along with thousands of rounds
of ammunition. Authorities had earlier said that 12 pipe bombs were
found.
As
the probe expands to sites where Malik lived overseas, friends and
family in the struggled to piece together clues about what
may have led the couple to the violence.
The Illinois-born
Farook was described as a bright student during his childhood in
California. As an adult, those who knew him said, he was a devout
Muslim, quiet and private.
Farook brought Malik to the United
States on a fiancee visa in July 2014. But friends said they knew little
about Farook’s wife. Many weren’t even aware that the couple had
welcomed their first child in May 2015, a baby daughter who was placed
in the custody of child protective services after the attack.
“At
this time I feel like he had a double life,” Saira Khan, Farook’s
sister, said in an interview with ABC News. “I feel like he was very
good at concealing everything from all of . The guy that we know, all
his co-workers, everybody that knew him at the mosque, they’re all
commenting just like we (are). . . . Nobody knew him any different than
how we knew him.”
Much less is known about Malik, who was born in
Pakistan but spent at least some time in Saudi Arabia, where her father
relocated more than two decades ago. It remains unclear how much time
she spent in Saudi Arabia, but she is known to have studied in Pakistan
to become a pharmacist.
After arriving in the United States,
Malik appeared to have interacted with very few people. Even male
relatives said they had never seen her face, which was typically covered
by a niqab, or face veil, used by some Muslim women.
Around the
time of the attacks, Malik went on Facebook to post a pledge of loyalty
to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. The Islamic
State is urging followers to launch attacks wherever they may be as the
group seeks to expand its reach beyond Iraq and Syria.
The group
has called Syed and Malik followers. But it has not linked itself as
clearly to the shooting as it has to a recent series of attacks in
Paris.
Five days after the shooting, San Bernardino was slowly
returning to normal life. Early Monday, county officials announced that
business would resume in most county offices, which had been shuttered
since the shooting. The lone exception was the Division of Environmental
Health Services, where Farook had worked for years.
Many of the
people who died were Farook’s co-workers, which triggered early
speculation that the rampage may have been sparked by a workplace
dispute. Investigators said that it is not yet clear whether workplace
friction might have played some role in the couple’s choice of target.
Since
the shooting, San Bernardino has taken steps to enhance security at
public facilities, including increasing the number of armed guards.
Officials have also established a counseling center and hotline, and
managers in county government have been asked to look for signs of
stress among their staff.
“The purpose of terrorism is to make
ordinary people afraid to do the ordinary things that make up their
lives,” said Janice Rutherford, a member of the county Board of
Supervisors. “We can’t be afraid of our lives, of our community, of our
neighbors, of our coworkers.”

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