Dive teams searching lake in San Bernardino

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

California shooting probe turns to lake.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government appears not to have picked up on extremist messages exchanged during the online courtship two years ago between the American-born man accused in the California shootings and his then-fiancée in Pakistan, according to lawmakers detailing closed-door briefings by federal officials on Capitol Hill. San Bernardino, California – A week-old investigation into the shooting rampage that left 14 people dead at a holiday party in Southern California turned on Thursday to a small lake near the scene of the massacre, where divers searched for evidence.One of the gunmen who opened fire at a Southern California office building last week reportedly tried to contact multiple Islamic extremist groups in the months before the attack, but was ignored.

American officials say 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, 29-year-old Tashfeen Malik, discussed martyrdom and jihad online as early as 2013. The FBI also revealed investigators were looking into any connections there may have been between one of the two killers in San Bernardino last week and four men arrested in 2012 in a separate federal terrorism case brought in nearby Riverside, California. Bowdich said investigators already have combed the surrounding park, and that the search of the lake by FBI and Sheriff’s Department divers could take days.

But the couple never surfaced on law enforcement’s radar and Malik was able to enter the U.S. on a fiancée visa last year despite having professed radical views online. One unnamed source told Reuters that it was likely whoever she was contacting didn’t respond out of fear of being caught in a law enforcement “sting” operation. The Los Angeles Times, citing an anonymous federal law enforcement official, reported last week that Syed Farook was in contact with members of the Nusra Front and the Somali extremist group Al-Shabaab. Farook, 28, a US-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and Malik, 29, a Pakistani native he married last year in Saudi Arabia, were slain hours after their attack in a shootout with police. The official told the Times there was “some type” of contact between Farook and the terror groups, but it was unclear what kind of contact the parties had.

The FBI said it is treating the mass shooting as an act of terrorism, citing the couple’s declaration that they were acting on behalf of the militant group ISIS, as well as a large cache of weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials seized in the investigation. The father works as an engineer, as do his two sons, according to a Pakistani counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

But if the crime proves to have been the work of killers driven by militant Islamic ideology, as the FBI suspects, it would mark the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2011. The latest slayings and disclosures about the killers’ backgrounds have put law U.S. law enforcement on heightened alert and reverberated into the U.S. presidential campaign, intensifying debates over gun control, immigration and national security. He married a Russian divorcee, Tatiana Gigliotti, 31, four years ago in a ceremony witnessed by his brother and Enrique Marquez, a man who grew up next door to the family in Riverside, according to marriage records.

Farook allegedly was plotting an attack on an unknown location in 2012 but scuttled the plan after the terror-related arrests of three men in California and a terror ringleader in Afghanistan that November. Speaking to reporters at Seccombe Lake yesterday, Bowdich disclosed the FBI was examining whether Farook had any links with the four conspirators in the Riverside case, as CNN and other media outlets have reported.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Malik was subjected to an in-person interview during the application process for a visa. Marquez became a Farook family member when he married Tatiana Farook’s sister, Mariya Chernykh, 25, last year, according to Riverside County records. A jury last year convicted two of those men, including Afghan-born ringleader Sohiel Omar Kabir, of conspiring to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda and plotting to attack U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. David Bowdich, the FBI special agent in charge of the bureau’s Los Angeles field office, confirmed that federal agents were investigating whether any of the men apprehended in 2012 had ties to Farook. It wasn’t immediately clear if that earlier investigation was related to the November 2012 arrests. “You have to say it was an intelligence failure,” Rep.

Richard Burr, R-N.C. replied, “Explain to me how you do that without any bread crumbs that are obvious, without somebody that’s inside a mosque, that’s inside a person’s family that tips you off. The number of organisations that Malik attempted to approach and how she sought to reach them were unclear, though the groups almost certainly included al-Qaeda’s Syria-based official affiliate, the Nusrah Front, the government sources said.

Jim Risch, a Republican who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they had an actual plan, including buying weapons, but became apprehensive and shelved it because of law enforcement activity and arrests in the area. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and John Mulligan, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, briefed members of both houses of Congress on Thursday about the investigation in closed, classified sessions. “The current impression is that these two people were acting alone,” U.S.

Lawmakers said the FBI wouldn’t provide details about his ties to the case, citing an “ongoing criminal investigation.” Marquez’s mother Armida Chacon told reporters Thursday that her 24-year-old son is a good person. But he added that he was troubled by the fact that the couple had tried to cover their tracks by destroying their cellphones and other electronic equipment. The Times also reported that federal investigators have concluded, based on digital evidence left by the couple, that Farook and Malik were in the final stages of planning a larger terror attack, possibly against a local school or college.

Marquez, who is related to Farook’s family by marriage – his wife and the wife of Farook’s older brother are sisters – has not been charged with any crime.

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