California killers radicalised for ‘quite some time’, practised shooting

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Dec 08, 2015 22:21 IST
This image obtained from US Customs and Border Protection December 7, 2015 shows Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, as they were going through customs in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on the evening of July 27, 2014. (AFP)

The Pakistani-origin couple that killed 14 people in California had been radicalised for “some time” and had practised for the attack at local shooting ranges, the FBI has said.

Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistan-born wife, was earlier presumed to have radicalised her Pakistani-American husband Syed Rizwan Farook based on her religiosity and links to radical institutions.

She also uploaded a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, using a fake account, around the time of the attacks on December 2.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities said they have no record of Malik visiting India in 2013, as claimed by a spokesman for the Saudi Arabian interior ministry who was quoted by The New York Times on Monday. She is said to have left Saudi Arabia for India on October 6 that year.

“We have not found any record of any person by the name of Tashfeen Malik ever visiting India. We don’t know yet if she travelled by any other name,” a senior home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

“We will seek information from the US authorities about passports held by Malik to check further, but as of now we have not found any record of Tashfeen Malik’s visit to India,” the official added.

Malik, 29, is being seen as the more radical of the two and the one who influenced her 28-year-old husband, who was born and raised in the US, had a decent job and a family. But that’s changed.

“As the investigation has progressed, we have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalised and have been for quite some time,” said FBI assistant director David Bowdich.

Speaking of the planning and practice the couple put into the attack, Bowditch said, “That target practice in one occasion happened within days of this event.”

But investigators have found nothing yet to link the attack to foreign terror organisations. The Islamic State has called the couple “supporters” but did not claim responsibility.

Friends, relatives and acquaintances of Farook told the FBI he had held militant views for a long time, from much before he met and married Malik. He brought her to the US in 2014.

A fuller picture is now emerging of Malik, who was born in Pakistan but grew up in Saudi Arabia, where the family had relocated decades ago. She returned to Pakistan to study.

While studying to be a pharmacist at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, Pakistan, she enrolled for an 18-month course at Al-Huda, a conservative religious studies centre for women.

The centre confirmed to The New York Times that Malik studied there but insisted that if she had completed the course, she would never have done the killings.

Malik left the centre in May 2014, telling administrators she was getting married. She did ask about ways to complete her course online, but never followed up on instructions emailed to her.

It’s still not clear how long the couple had planned the attacks. The two military style assault rifles used in the attack were bought by Farook’s friend Enrique Marquez in 2011.

Of the three other guns found at the couple’s home in Redlands, California, two were acquired around the same time as the assault rifles. Investigators won’t say if Marquez is a suspect.

(With HT inputs from New Delhi)

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