FBI: Killers were ‘radicalized,’ no evidence of global plot

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dry run: San Bernardino shooters practiced at gun range days before attack.

John D’Angelo, assistant special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, says Syed Farook bought three guns that have been recovered, including two pistols that he and his wife used in the shooting.The FBI has concluded the San Bernardino shooters were radicalized well before they opened fire at an office holiday party last week, and said Monday the couple had been practicing their aim in the days leading up to the terror attack. “We believe that both subjects were radicalized and for quite some time,” FBI spokesman David Bowdich said Monday, referring to the husband and wife duo, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. During the two visits— one of which lasted several hours— Farook shot both an AR-15 and a handgun, both of which were brought by him to the range.

Sources say that Marquez is not considered a suspect in the shooting, but the FBI would like to learn more from him — including how gunman Syed Farook obtained those rifles. D’Angelo says federal authorities are investigating how those weapons got from Marquez to Farook and Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, who helped carry out the attack that left 14 dead. After Farook reportedly got in an argument with a co-worker regarding Islam at the party, he left and returned 20 minutes later with Malik, carrying rifles and semi-automatic handguns. Bowdich touched on the question of whether one of them guided the other down the path of radicalization, saying that police did not know yet when or how this might have occurred. “How did that happen and by whom and where did that happen?” he said. “I will tell you right now, we don’t know those answers at this point.” Investigators have found evidence of “pre-planning,” Bowdich said. Officials at five hospitals confirm Monday that at least 11 of the 21 people injured in the attack and ensuing shootout with police have been released.

The Islamic extremists killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities where Farook worked, before police tracked them down and killed them. Farook’s mother, Rafia Farook, is believed to have lived in the same house as the couple, and her driver’s license was seen at the home following the attack.

Both attackers went to shooting ranges in the Los Angeles region for target practice, including one such visit just days before the shooting, he said. Authorities have also collected over 320 pieces of evidence so far, some of which have already been transported to Washington DC, primarily to FBI labs and bomb labs.

Farook’s father, also named Syed Farook, 66, has been placed on a federal terrorist watch list, an official with direct knowledge of the case told ABC News. “The FBI has identified him (the younger Farook) as a known terrorist,” the official told ABC News. “He’s dead. San Bernardino County officials had said earlier Monday they were returning to work in an attempt to resume normal business, five days after the massacre at an event for government workers. An MSNBC reporter found a certificate of appreciation to Rafia from the group’s sister wing, while outlets scoured the Farook apartment in California. (RELATED: NY Daily News: San Bernardino Victim Deserved It For Being Conservative) Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience.

The only exception is the Division of Environmental Health Services, where work will be suspended for at least another week, county officials said at a news conference. In an effort to help employees cope with the effects of last week’s violence, the county has established a counseling center and hotline, and managers in county government have been asked to look for signs of stress among their staff. At one point, a dispatcher advises all units that potentially three suspects wearing black masks and possibly tactical vests had fled in a black SUV with assault rifles.

A neighbor who witnessed the search told NBC News that Marquez and Farook had been close friends since childhood but appeared to have grown more distant in recent months. Following Wednesday’s bloodshed, federal investigators raided the home of Enrique Marquez, identified as the man who purchased the two assault rifles used by the couple in the killings. County officials and physicians from hospitals that treated shooting victims stressed that San Bernardino would seek to remain united and would rally around those affected by the massacre. “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.” The wide-ranging investigation into the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, continued Monday, as officials sought answers about the attack, the suspects and any ties they may have to other people. In addition to providing information about the rifles, Marquez may have other information that could help federal investigators as they continue to probe the shooter’s background.

County spokeswoman Felisa Cardona says it wasn’t immediately clear whether Syed Farook attended the autumn 2014 training for environmental health workers. Bowdich stressed that process could have been achieved over the Internet and may not have involved an individual actively turning the pair towards radical Islam.

The two college seniors — Nicholas Kollias, who is featured online performing Chopin melodies, and Ani Okeke-Ewo — were being treated Monday at a Rochester Hospital as police continued their investigation. Marquez, who works as a Walmart security guard, checked himself into a mental health facility Friday; it is not yet clear whether he has already been questioned by authorities or if he will be charged. Farhat Hashmi said in a statement on her website that Tashfeen Malik attended Al-Huda International Seminary’s branch in the Pakistani city of Multan briefly between 2013 and 2014. A picture has begun to take shape of the couple’s past and their apparent radicalization even as their lives followed a seemingly ordinary course: work, marriage, child. Hashmi says the Al-Huda International Welfare Foundation denounces extremism, violence and acts of terrorism and cannot be held responsible “for personal acts of any of our students.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch says the Justice Department is monitoring the wave of anti-Muslim rhetoric emerging in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Police declined to comment on the case details, but classmates of the duo said they were lured to the house by young women, and then jumped by men inside. Federal officials are investigating whether the military-style rifles used were part of an illegal straw purchase, and then given to Farook or Malik, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Muslim advocacy groups have expressed concern about a rising tide of Islamophobia following the shootings, including incidents of vandalism and threats at mosques. Neighbor Jared Rork said Farook and Marquez would sometimes be seen working on cars and listening to music in one of their garages. “They seemed like everyday, normal Americans,” he said. Kuuleme Stephens, a friend of Thalasinos’s, said she had spoken with him by phone about two weeks before the attack, reaching him when he was having a conversation with Farook about the nature of Islam and Israel’s place in the Middle East.

The rifles they used had been altered to make them more lethal, and a major arsenal was found in their two-story townhome, including what authorities said were a dozen pipe bombs and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said investigators are trying to establish where the couple got the money to buy their weaponry. “There’s a serious investigation ongoing into what she was doing in Pakistan and in Saudi,” McCaul said. “We think that she had a lot to do with the radicalization process and perhaps with Mr. Farook’s radicalization from within the United States.” One of the few known clues about Malik’s beliefs was a posting she made on Facebook around the time of the attack, pledging loyalty to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reporters’ ability to look into Malik’s roots was made more difficult by the presence of intelligence agents at sites she is known to have visited in the town of Multan, where she lived with her mother and sister while undertaking her college studies.

On Sunday, three professors at Bahauddin Zakariya University, which Malik also attended, told Reuters that security agencies had told them not to speak to reporters.

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