FBI investigating California mass shooting as ‘act of terrorism’

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Dec 05, 2015 08:06 IST
The FBI is investigating the California massacre in which a couple killed 14 people as an ‘act of terrorism’. (AP Photo)

The FBI on Friday said it was treating the California shooting as an “act of terrorism” as reports emerged of Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistani wife of Syed Farook, posting a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during the Wednesday carnage.

She posted that pledge on Facebook under an assumed name, said multiple news reports citing US investigators, who went on to say the attack was one inspired by IS, not directed by it.

Malik uploaded the post while the attack was underway.

The FBI, which is now leading the investigation, said Friday it is now treating the shooting as an act of terrorism. “As of today, based on the information and facts as we know them,” the agency is investigating this “as an act of terrorism,” David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said at a news conference.

He didn’t give details but evidence pointing to terrorism has been mounting. Investigators found a massive arsenal of weapons and bombs at the home of the shooters in Redland, California.

And investigators going through computers and electronic devices belonging to the couple found evidence that they tried to delete or destroy data before the attacks.

Investigators have also found evidence that Farook himself was in touch with terror suspects in the US and abroad being monitored by authorities some years ago.

Farook, a public health inspector, and Malik were killed in a gun battle with police hours after they gunned down 14 people at his office’s Christmas party in San Bernardino on Wednesday.

FBI and police continue their investigation around the area of the SUV vehicle where two suspects were shot by police following a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. (Reuters Photo)

FBI, which is going through Farook and his wife’s computers and other electronic devices, found that he had begun deleting data a day before the attacks.

Neither he nor his wife were on any terror watchlist. Officials are now saying he was in touch some persons with possible links to terrorism, according to multiple reports.

Farook had communicated with extremists in the US and abroad a few years ago, but not recently, according to congressional officials cited by The New York Times.

They said Farook had contacted five people whom the FBI had investigated for possible terrorist activities — including one associated with the Shabab, the Islamist militant movement in Somalia, and another associated with the Nusra Front, the wing of Al Qaeda in Syria.

No charges were filed, and all five cases were closed.

Farook was born in the US, but his family came from Pakistan. And Malik was born in Pakistan and had lived in Saudi Arabia recently. They met online, and married two years ago.

Malik, who held a Pakistani passport, came to the US in July 2014 on K-1 (fiancee) visa. US authorities are in touch with Pakistan to find out more about her, NBC news said.

They had a six-month-old daughter, who they left with Farook’s mother, telling her they were going to see a doctor. The next she heard about them was from police.

While Farook was a devout Muslim, and went to a local mosque couple of times every week, relatives, acquaintances, neighbours and friends found no signs of his radicalization.

“I have no idea why he would do something like this,” Farhan Khan, who is married to Farook’s sister, said at a news conference on Wednesday. They last spoke a week ago.

(With agency inputs)

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