The Islamic State has praised the killing of 14 people by a Pakistani-origin couple in California, which the FBI is treating as an act of terrorism, but did not claim responsibility for the attack.
The IS said in a radio broadcast two “supporters” had carried out the attack. Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter, had posted a pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi during the shooting.
“Two followers of the Islamic State attacked several days ago a centre in San Bernardino in California,” IS said in the statement, issued on the group’s daily broadcast al-Bayan.
Malik, 27, and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, were killed on Wednesday in a gun battle with police, hours after they had gunned down 14 people at an office Christmas party.
The victims were all Farook’s colleagues from the local county’s public health department, where he worked as an inspector, and that had led investigators to consider it work-place related.
But investigations stretching from California to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan have now clearly established it as terrorism, the worst on American soil since September 11, 2001.
“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 area FBI official said on Friday.
But the FBI doesn’t believe they were part of a network or a group. “The investigation so far has developed indications of radicalisation by the killers, and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organisations,” FBI director James B Comey said at separate news conference, adding: “There’s no indication that they are part of a network.”
Investigators unearthed a massive arsenal of weapons and explosives and a copy of al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine at the shooters’ home in Redlands, California. The attackers had also tried to destroy electronic data.
Farook, 28, was born in Illinois to a family that had moved from Pakistan. Malik, however, was born in Pakistan, moved to Saudi Arabia with her family, and then returned for college.
Nissan Ahmad, a professor at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, Pakistan, where Malik studied, told The Washington Post: “She used to wear complete veil and a religious-minded student… She was not mixing with her male class fellows in the department. ... But no one had the idea that she would act that as she never involved in such activities.”
In the US, family lawyer David Chesley told the Post: “She did maintain certain traditions in terms of prayer and fasting. She chose not to drive voluntarily. She was a very, very private person. She kept herself pretty well isolated.” Malik never appeared without a veil before male relatives. And that’s how Farook wanted it to be, too.