Q&A on California shooters and their possible terrorism ties
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Family members of the two shooters in the Southern California rampage that left 14 dead had no knowledge of their plans, their attorneys say, and they cautioned against a rush to judgment after the FBI announced Friday it is investigating the mass shooting as an act of terrorism. What is known so far:
DOES THE ASSAULT HAVE A LINK TO TERRORISM?
The FBI’s announcement does not mean that the agency has concluded Syed Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, were terrorists — only that investigators have gathered enough preliminary information to move their probe in that direction.
That’s a step beyond earlier this week, when police said they knew nothing conclusive about the possible motivation of Farook or his wife.
David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in Los Angeles on Friday that the shooters attempted to destroy evidence, including crushing two cellphones and discarding them in a trash can.
The husband and wife used homemade explosives and assault-style rifles in the attack on a holiday party of Farook’s co-workers, authorities say, but much remains unknown.
A U.S. law enforcement official said Friday that Malik, who later died with Farook in a gunfight with police, used an alias on Facebook to make her declaration of support for the Islamic State and its leader. But there is no sign anyone from the group communicated with her or provided any guidance for the attack.
FBI Director James Comey noted the bureau’s investigation so far has shown no evidence that the shooters were part of a larger group or members of a terror cell.
WHAT DID THE FAROOK’S FAMILY KNOW?
Nothing, according to attorneys David Chesley and Mohammad Abuershaid, who represent Farook’s mother and three siblings.
Farook’s mother, Rafia Sultana Farook, lived with the couple in a modest Redlands apartment but never saw anything that would suggest they were planning a massacre at a holiday party for Farook’s co-workers or building explosives for use in the attack, the attorneys told reporters in Los Angeles. The mother stayed mostly to herself at the home, upstairs, and “everyone was in shock” after details of the rampage emerged, Chesley said.
“We all want an answer” for what motivated the attacks, Chesley said. “We can’t jump to conclusions.”
Family and friends have expressed disbelief that the quiet, religious couple staged the deadly attack.
Friends knew Farook by his quick smile, his devotion to Islam and his talk about restoring cars. They say they didn’t know he was busy with his wife building pipe bombs and stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition for the assault on Farook’s colleagues from San Bernardino County’s health department.
The dead in Wednesday’s attack ranged in age from 26 to 60, and 21 were injured.
WHO IS TASHFEEN MALIK?
In the days since the shooting, only sparse details have emerged about her life.
Farook told friends he met his future wife online and she was Pakistani. Malik arrived in the U.S. on a K-1 visa for fiancées and with a Pakistani passport in July 2014, authorities said.
The two were married Aug. 16, 2014, in nearby Riverside County, according to their marriage license. Both listed their religion as Muslim. The couple had a 6-month-old daughter; they left the baby with relatives Wednesday morning before the shooting.
Pakistani intelligence officials say Malik moved as a child with her family to Saudi Arabia 25 years ago. They say the family is originally from the Pakistani town of Karor Lal Esan, about 200 miles southwest of the capital of Islamabad in Punjab province.
A relative of Malik says she apparently became a more zealous follower of the Muslim faith about three years ago.
Hifza Batool told The Associated Press on Saturday that other relatives have said that Malik, who was her step-niece, used to wear Western clothes but began wearing the hijab head covering or the all-covering burqa donned by the most conservative Muslim women about three years ago.
“I recently heard it from relatives that she has become a religious person and she often tells people to live according to the teachings of Islam,” said Batool, 35, a private school teacher who lives in Karor Lal Esam.
Malik didn’t stay in Saudi Arabia, eventually returning to Pakistan and living in the capital Islamabad. She did return to Saudi Arabia for visits, including a nine-week stay in July 2008.
She made a second visit of nearly four months in 2013. That trip overlaps by nearly a week with a trip Farook took to Saudi Arabia, and might have been when the two met though it isn’t clear whether they had any contact during the six days.
Farook attended Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque in San Bernardino. Gasser Shehata, who also went to the mosque, said Farook would come to the mosque about three times a week, usually during his lunch break from work as a San Bernardino County health inspector. His wife didn’t join him, he said.
Shehata said he saw Malik sitting in Farook’s car once about nine months ago wearing a niqab, a veil that covers a woman’s face except her eyes.
The family attorneys described Malik as a soft-spoken, very private housewife who spoke broken English and lived in Pakistan until she was 18 or 20 years old. Following religious tradition in their home, men and women would remain separated during social visits.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER INDICATIONS OF A POSSIBLE TERRORISM LINK?
On Thursday, a U.S. intelligence official said Farook had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media.
But the official said the contact was with “people who weren’t significant players on our radar” and dated back some time. There also was no immediate indication of any “surge” in communication ahead of the shooting.
Farook had no criminal record, and he and his wife weren’t on the FBI’s radar before the shooting. Also, police are looking at the possibility that the shooting was tied to a workplace dispute.
Investigators say they had more than 1,600 bullets with them when they were killed and well over 4,500 rounds of ammunition at their home. Chesley said it wasn’t unusual for gun owners to buy ammunition in bulk to save money. Farook legally bought two handguns used in the massacre, and their two assault rifles were legally bought by someone else federal authorities want to question.
“When you can get them at a cheap price, you stock up,” he said.
Abdollah reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers and Kimberly Pierceall in San Bernardino and Asim Tanveer in Karor Lal Esam, Pakistan, contributed to this report.