U.S. authorities look for militant links to shooters in California mass slaying

Latest Update: December 4, 2015 | 130 Views

CALIFORNIA: The couple suspected of killing 14 people at a holiday party in California amassed thousands of rounds of ammunition and a dozen pipe bombs, authorities said on Thursday as they sought clues to the pair’s motives and whether they had links to Islamist militants.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, were killed in a shootout with police five hours after Wednesday’s massacre at the Inland Regional Center social services agency in the city of San Bernardino, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the attack, which ranks as the deadliest instance of U.S. gun violence since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 27 people were killed.

The dead and wounded from Wednesday’s bloodshed accounted for nearly half of the estimated 75 to 80 people who were in the room where the armed couple opened fire.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan told a news conference the search of a townhouse leased by the two shooting suspects in the nearby community of Redlands turned up flash drives, computers and cell phones.

Officials in Washington familiar with the investigation said there was no hard evidence of a direct connection between the couple and any militant group abroad, but the electronics would be checked to see if the suspects had been browsing on jihadist websites or social media.

One U.S. government source told Reuters the FBI was examining information indicating that Farook was in contact with individuals who had themselves been under FBI investigation, some from cases already closed. The source also said it was possible that one or more of the Farook contacts under scrutiny were overseas.

But no information has emerged suggesting any ties or contacts between Farook and the Islamic State or other specific militant groups, the source said.

Officials from President Barack Obama to Police Chief Burguan said the attack may have been motivated by extremist ideology but that questions of motive remained unanswered.

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know,” Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”

Farook, a U.S. citizen born in Illinois, was the son of Pakistani immigrants, according to Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Los Angeles area chapter of the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Malik, who had a 6-month-old daughter with Farook, was a Pakistani native living in Saudi Arabia when they married, Ayloush said.

David Bowdich, FBI assistant director in Los Angeles, said Malik was admitted to the United State on a K-1 “fiancee visa” and was traveling on a Pakistani passport.

The couple entered the United States in July 2014 after a trip that included Pakistan, Bowdich said. Farook also visited Saudi Arabia for nine days in the summer of 2014, the kingdom’s embassy in Washington said.

The director of the Islamic Center of Riverside, a mosque Farook attended regularly for two years, described him as a devout Muslim who made the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia a few years ago and celebrated his wedding reception at the mosque.

“His degree of faith is very high,” the director, Mustafa Kuko, told Reuters. “He was a very quiet person, peaceful, never had an argument with anyone or a dispute.”

Kuko said Farook attended morning and evening prayers from 2012 to 2014, when he abruptly stopped coming.

Farook, who according to Burguan had no criminal record, worked as an inspector for San Bernardino County Department of Environmental Health, the agency throwing the holiday party that came under attack.

Police cited witness accounts that Farook had been attending the celebration but stormed off in anger, then returned with Malik armed with assault gear and opened fire. Burguan said they sprayed the room with 65 to 70 rounds.



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