FBI: San Bernardino shooters were radicalized ‘for quite some time’

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Radicalized’ couple practiced at Los Angeles-area shooting ranges before deadly attack.

As investigators work to determine the backgrounds and motivations of the married couple suspected in last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, contradictory claims have emerged from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia about where the wife, Tashfeen Malik, spent her formative years. SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — Just days before he carried out an attack that killed 14 people, Syed Farook practiced with a rifle during one of several recent visits to a local shooting range, authorities said. Relatives and acquaintances of Malik in Pakistan said she had grown up in Saudi Arabia and had been influenced by its deeply conservative interpretation of Islam. An instructor at Riverside Magnum Range — about 20 miles from the Inland Regional Center where the two targeted Farook’s co-workers a few days later — said Farook visited the range on Nov. 29 and 30. He also said Syed Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malin, 29, had taken target practice at ranges within the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with one session held within days of last week’s rampage.

The claims come as both countries, which have complicated relationships with the United States and have waged their own battles against Islamic militancy, seek to clear themselves of ties to the San Bernardino shootings, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. John Galletta said Monday that nothing was out of the ordinary about Farook’s behavior, but that he asked a representative why his rifle might be smoking, and was told it was most likely because it was new. Asked whether in hindsight he or others at the range should have been suspicious of Farook, Galletta said: “How are you able to determine what somebody’s intents are?” “We have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalized and have been for quite some time,” said David Bowdich, chief of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at a news conference Monday.

Relatives of Malik, 29, said that she had moved with her father, an engineer, from a remote district of Punjab Province in Pakistan to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when she was a young child. Farook’s estranged father, also named Syed Farook, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that his son shared the ideology of the Islamic State group and was fixated on Israel. It was not immediately clear whether Farook attended the late-2014 session on what to do when a gunman invades the workplace, San Bernardino County spokeswoman Felisa Cardona said.

Malik attended a religious school in the Pakistani city of Multan briefly between 2013 and 2014 but didn’t receive a diploma, Farhat Hashmi, founder of Al-Huda International Seminary, said in a statement on her website. From 2007 to at least 2012, Malik studied in Multan, Pakistan, the main city in southern Punjab, where one faculty member recalled her as a “Saudi girl” because her religious observance was so much stricter than that of her peers. Two employees who survived the attack said colleagues reacted Wednesday by trying to do as they had been trained — dropping under the tables and staying quiet so as not to attract attention. Newly released emergency radio transmissions from the fast-moving tragedy show that police identified Farook as a suspect almost immediately, even though witnesses reported that the attackers wore black ski masks.

The two assault rifles used in the attack had been legally purchased by an old friend of Farook’s, Enrique Marquez, authorities said, but they are still trying to determine how the couple got the weapons. Farook, 28, visited Saudi Arabia twice, once for the hajj pilgrimage between October 1 and October 20, 2013, and once for an off-season pilgrimage known as umrah for nine days in July 2014. The killers had “gone down the dark path of radicalization,” he said, but there was no evidence they were part of a larger conspiracy or were directed by an overseas terror organization. Both Saudi and Pakistani officials have bristled at the suggestion that their respective countries played any role in the radicalization of Malik and Farook.

Meanwhile, most of the county’s 20,000 employees went back to work for the first time since the rampage five days earlier plunged the community into shock and mourning. The photo shows Malik’s first moments on US soil, as Farook had travelled to Saudi Arabia two weeks earlier to bring her back to America after they met online. The shooters attempted to destroy their digital footprint, according to sources who say digital equipment left behind from the mass shooting was smashed.

FBI computer forensics analysts in Orange County in California and at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, will now try to reconstruct and extract any digital information they can. After raiding the couple’s home in Redlands, California, the FBI discovered the couple had two assault-style rifles, two semi-automatic handguns, 6100 rounds of ammunition and 12 pipe bombs in their home or with them when they were killed, officials said. Later on, the media were granted access to the California home, where they rushed in and went through personal effects, which included photo IDs and a wide array of documents and photographs — in addition to the couple’s baby toys. Among the items spread out on a bed were a Social Security card, driver’s licenses, bank statements, credit cards and a selection of business cards from Kaiser Permanente, Century 21 and UnionBanc, among many others. His decision to speak in prime time reflected the White House’s concern that his message on the recent attacks hasn’t broken through, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.

He announced no significant shift in U.S. strategy and offered no new policy prescriptions for defeating IS, underscoring both his confidence in his current approach and the lack of easy options for countering the extremist group. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” an idea that prompted one of his rivals to call him “unhinged.” The proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of Islam who want to come to the US. But Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said villifying and casting suspicion on American Muslims would threaten counterterrorism efforts and is un-American.

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