San Bernardino shooting investigation expanding to larger network of people

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Feds investigate other potential plots from Calif. shooters.

Islamic militant groups ignored contact attempts from Pakistan-born Tashfeen Malik in the months before she and her husband killed 14 people in San Bernardino, probably because they feared getting caught in a US law enforcement sting, government sources have said. WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are continuing to review information about other possible attack plans involving the San Bernardino shooters, based in part on interviews with the man who provided the two semi-automatic rifles used in last week’s assault that left 14 dead, a federal law enforcement official said. Disclosures of her overtures to extremists abroad surfaced as the investigation into the 2 December shooting appeared to take a new turn with divers searching a small lake near the scene of the massacre. Authorities were attempting to corroborate accounts provided by Enrique Marquez, a former neighbor and associate of Syed Farook who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire on a holiday party packed with Farook’s San Bernardino County co-workers. One of the sources said Thursday that Farook wanted to make sure “the guns were not tied back to him” when he asked Enrique Marquez to make the purchases at a Southern California gun store in 2011 or 2012.

Marquez has so far not been charged in connection with the attack, but the official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, characterized the Farook associate as an ongoing focus of the wide-ranging inquiry. Mr Comey did not indicate whether the FBI investigation had established a substantial link between the couple and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) armed group. One source said the government currently has little, if any, evidence that Malik or her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, had any direct contact with Islamic State, which has captured control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. The number of organizations that Malik, 29, tried to contact and how she sought to reach them was unclear, but the groups almost certainly included al-Qaida’s Syria-based official affiliate, the Nusrah Front, the government sources said.

Two federal sources told the Los Angeles Times that the married couple were in the final planning stages for an assault on a separate building or location “with a lot more people inside,” possibly at a nearby school or college. FBI director James Comey has said Malik and Farook declared at about the time of their attack that they were acting on behalf of Islamic State, also known as Isis, which in turn has embraced the couple as among its followers. Investigators have based that information on evidence left behind on Farook and Malik’s computers and digital devices, not all of which the couple was able to destroy before they were killed in a firefight with police. The Dec. 2 shooting massacre by Farook, the U.S.-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and Malik, 29, a Pakistani native he married in Saudi Arabia last year, has heightened security concerns in the United States and has become an issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. Militant groups sought out by Malik likely ignored her approaches because they have become extremely wary of responding to outsiders they do not know or who have not been introduced to them, sources said.

In the aftermath of the attacks, American Muslims have told The Independent of an apparent surge in alleged Islamophobic hate crimes, including the brutal beating Saturday of a New York City store owner. If the massacre proves to have been the work of killers inspired by Islamic militants, it would mark the deadliest such attack on US soil since 9/11 attacks in 2001. FBI agents believe Farook abandoned his plans to launch an earlier attack after a law enforcement task force arrested three men in Chino in November 2012. Mr Comey praised the American Muslims who inform the FBI on suspicious behavior and asked that they come forward if they witness or suspect a hate crime so that it can be properly investigated. Comey, along with US homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson and John Mulligan, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, 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,” US senator Angus King of Maine told CNN after the briefing.

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 comment provoked international criticism, but on Thursday, a CBS-New York Times poll showed Mr Trump with 13 more per cent in the polls since October — giving him an all time high of 35 per cent of voting Republicans polled. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said Malik had listed a false address in Pakistan that screeners did not catch. Representative Bob Goodlatte, Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, told reporters afterward that there were people in the community who saw suspicious activity at the shooters’ house but decided not to tell authorities “for a variety of reasons”.

Officials have previously raised the likelihood that people who witnessed suspicious behavior involving the California shooters prior to the attack did not immediately pass it on to authorities. If we find areas where that process needs to be improved, or mistakes that might have been made, we’ll be accountable for that and make the proper changes.” Farook and Malik had been in contact with people in Orange County, California, who had been investigated by the FBI for possible ties to terrorism, but nothing arose during that investigation to draw attention to either shooter, a U.S. government source said.

As she combed through the wreckage of the garage door, Chacon eventually turned to the reporters camped out on the street and agreed to an interview if the cameras were turned off. While Marquez has been forthcoming about his ties to Farook, federal officials are still working to verify the information he has provided, the source said. Marquez and Farook “were plotting an actual attack” that year, including buying weapons, but became apprehensive and shelved the plan because of law enforcement activity and arrests in the area, said Idaho senator Jim Risch, a Republican who sits on the Senate select committee on intelligence. Three years later, Raheel Farook and his wife, Tatiana, were witnesses to Marquez’s marriage to her sister, Mariya Chernykh, according to Riverside county records.

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