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FBI investigating Calif. mass shooting as act of terrorism

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Kayla Gaskill, left, Gaskill’s mother and Connie Pegler, right, pay respect at a makeshift memorial for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting rampage, Friday in San Bernardino, Calif. Gaskill said her friend Daniel Kaufman was killed in the shooting.

  • A Muslim community prayer vigil for San Bernardino shooting victims, in Chino, Calif. on Thursday. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

  • A woman cried during a candlelight vigil for shooting victims on Thursday at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. » The FBI announced Friday that it is investigating the mass shooting at a Southern California office party as an act of terrorism, but the agency’s director said there is no indication the husband and wife who killed 14 people were part of a larger plot or members of a terror cell.

If the investigation confirms the massacre was inspired by Islamic extremism, it would be the deadliest such terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

While authorities did not cite specific evidence that led them to the terrorism focus, a U.S. law enforcement official said the wife, Tashfeen Malik, had under a Facebook alias pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader. A Facebook official said Malik praised Islamic State in a post at 11 a.m. Wednesday, around the time the couple stormed a San Bernardino social service center and opened fire.

Malik and her husband, Syed Farook, died in a fierce gunbattle with authorities several hours after their commando-style assault on a gathering of Farook’s colleagues from San Bernardino County’s health department.

An Islamic State-affiliated news service called Malik and Farook “supporters” of their Islamist cause but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.

FBI Director James Comey would not discuss whether anyone affiliated with Islamic State communicated back to Malik, but he said there was no indication yet that the plot was directed by any other foreign terror group. He also declined to rule out that future possibility.

“The investigation so far has developed indications of radicalization by the killers and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations,” Comey said. He cautioned that the investigation has not yet shown evidence the couple was part of a larger group.

Despite mounting signs of the couple’s radicalization, there “is a lot of evidence that doesn’t quite make sense,” Comey said in a nod to the fact the investigation was just two days old.

Attorneys representing Farook’s family urged the public and media to wait for specific evidence before jumping to conclusions. They said none of his relatives had any indication either Farook or his wife held extremist views.

David Bowdich, head of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said “a number of pieces of evidence” point to terrorism and that the agency was focused on that idea “for good reason.” He would not elaborate.

The U.S. official who revealed the Facebook post was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Facebook official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed under corporate policy to be quoted by name, said the company discovered Wednesday’s post on Thursday, removed the profile from public view and reported its contents to law enforcement.

Bowdich said he was not aware of the Islamic State-affiliated Aamaq news service report but was not surprised the Islamic State would attempt to link itself to the attack. He said investigators were looking carefully to determine if there is an Islamic State connection.

Farook, a U.S. citizen who grew up in Southern California, and Malik rented a townhome in nearby Redlands where investigators said they found an arsenal of ammunition and homemade bombs. On Friday morning, the property’s owner allowed reporters inside. The surreal scene — reporters walking among baby items, handling family photos and looking at dirty dishes in a sink — was broadcast live on cable TV.

While appearing unseemly, there was nothing compromising from an investigative standpoint as Bowdich said the FBI was done with the scene.

Meantime, analysts were trying to retrieve data from two cellphones found nearby that had been crushed in an apparent attempt to destroy the information inside. “We hope that will take us to their motivation,” he said.

Until Friday, federal and local law enforcement officials said terrorism was a possibility but that the violence could have stemmed from a workplace grudge.

Attorneys for Farook’s family urged the public not to rush to judgment.

“If the most evidence there is to any affiliation is a Facebook account under another person’s name … then that’s hardly anything at all,” attorney David Chesley said.

Chesley and his legal partner, Mohammad Abuershaid, described Malik as “just a housewife” who closely followed Muslim traditions. They said Farook’s mother, who lived with the couple, never saw any of the weapons or bombs authorities found. The FBI questioned her Wednesday night and, according to the attorneys, refused to release her until Farook’s siblings came for questioning.

The couple’s orphaned 6-month-old daughter is in the care of child protective services, and the family will try to obtain custody her next week.

Farook had no criminal record, and neither he nor his wife was under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attack, authorities said.

Malik, 27, was a Pakistani who grew up in Saudi Arabia and came to the U.S. in 2014 on a fiancée visa. Farook, a 28-year-old restaurant health inspector for the county, was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents but raised in Southern California.

Law enforcement officials have long warned that Americans acting in sympathy with Islamic extremists — though not on direct orders — could launch an attack inside the U.S. Using slick propaganda, the Islamic State in particular has urged sympathizers worldwide to commit violence in their countries.

Others have done so. In May, just before he attacked a gathering in Texas of people drawing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, a Phoenix man tweeted his hope that Allah would view him as a holy warrior.

Two weeks ago, with Americans on edge over the Islamic State attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, Comey said that U.S. authorities had no specific or credible intelligence pointing to an attack on American soil.

Since March 2014, 71 people have been charged in the U.S. in connection with supporting the Islamic State, including 56 this year, according to a recent report from the George Washington University Program on Extremism. Though most are men, “women are taking an increasingly prominent role in the jihadist world,” the report said.

It was not immediately clear whether Malik exhibited any support for radical Islamists before she arrived in the U.S. — or, like scores of others arrested by the FBI, became radicalized through online or in-person associations after arriving.

Friends of the soft-spoken Farook who knew him from his daily prayers at a mosque in San Bernardino said they saw nothing to make them think he was violent. They said Farook reported meeting his future wife online.

To receive her visa, Malik was subjected to a vetting process the U.S. government describes as vigorous. It includes in-person interviews, fingerprints, checks against terrorist watch lists and reviews of her family members, travel history and places where she lived and worked.

Foreigners applying from countries that are home to Islamic extremists — such as Pakistan — undergo additional scrutiny before the State Department and Homeland Security approve their applications.

Pakistani officials said Malik moved with her family to Saudi Arabia as a young child. A person close to the Saudi government said Malik eventually returned to Pakistan. The person was not authorized to speak publicly, and did so on condition of anonymity.

Inside the couple’s townhome, reporters found a copy of the Quran on a living room table along with several documents, including one that authorities left behind listing what they had seized. Walls were covered with decorative rugs with Arabic script.

An upstairs bedroom had personal documents, a crib and boxes of diapers.

___

Abdollah reported from Washington. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ken Dilanian and Eric Tucker in Washington; Zarar Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan; Brian Skoloff in Redlands, California; Kimberly Pierceall in San Bernardino, California; Lee Keath in Cairo, Egypt; Michael R. Blood, Gillian Flaccus, Christine Armario, Sue Manning and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles.

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        • The husband was a US citizen by birth and the wife came over on a K-1 fiance visa. You have no idea what the K-1 visa process entails, while I do. Check you “facts” before posting unfounded inane comments.

      • Doesn’t matter whether the Pakistani woman was allowed to enter and live in the US on K-1 fiancé visa, the federal gov’t FAILED to screen this woman and her ties to Islamic terrorists. Point is Islamic terrorist can be ANYONE coming in from counties like Pakistan OR Syria As there is no way to accurately vet them because they are hidden and do NOT use social media, emails that publicly state their intentions. The worse terrorist are the ones that our people govt’t do NOT know about because they are true believers and fanatical in their desire to kill Americans. For this woman and man they were willing to mass murder innocent Americans AND leave their only child parent less. Anyone think you could possibly screen Syrian or other middle Eastern Muslim refugee when they are willing to go that far and disregard all motherhood or parental instincts of a ‘normal’ person?

    • Speaking of screening, will Obama have his Gunboats, No-Fly Zones, checking the trash dumpsters along his travel route..not to mention his SS Battalion & HPD (no compensation) with him when he vacation this month as usual?

  • D… The old Adam following Eve down the road to destruction. Perfect “misdirection” play. Wonder if the women blown up in Paris safe house was “real” center point.

  • Fusako Shigenobu was a beauty, turned lots of heads leader of the Japanese Red Army. She took her little army to Lebanon and relocated in the Bekaa Valley in the late 80s.

  • isis and al qaeda are contained. isis is jv. there is no evidence of an attack in the u.s. the real meaning of christmas is loving trees. nice clock. gruber voters accept obama’s words as gospel.

  • This is the time when the Hillary/Obama machine starts to fall apart at the wheels, for 7 years, through lies and obfuscation they have been able to fool the public to think that it was all a video, or work place violence, but the fact is that Hillary/Obama has done a terrible job of keeping the American public safe. This will be their legacy, what they will be remembered for, hopefully at the general election next year.

    • The real culprits work behind the scenes and never place themselves up front in public. Those who control the money hold the power over all. Those in the media are just mere puppets for the puppet master themselves.

  • Farook was a fellow worker of the innocent people he killed and wounded. He was described as a soft-spoken person who seemed to be okay. But Farook and his wife turned out to be murderous monsters all because of their religious and ideological beliefs. It goes to show you never can tell, but I would keep my eye on Islamic people.

  • these two jihadist Muslims that killed all these people, the FBI should get search warrants and search all the friends of these two terrorist houses, because they could have explosive vest and other devices like IADS for suicide bombing that they got from Farook and his wife. these terrorist like to attack the handicap and autistic and retarded young kids, that’s what they do in the middle east strap bombs on them like they did to a 12 year old retarded girl and used a remote to set the bomb off in a crowd of people.as I said they carry out what OBL said kill all the American anywhere and any place you find them it is your duty to attack them because there descendants of monkys and pigs.

    • Read today’s WAPO, gun violence down in US, you have proven yourself to be easily duped again by the MSN and Odummy’s propaganda! Try to keep up with reality and maybe think outside of the box, not what you are told to think!

      • As a registered democrat I agree with your comment. I am sick and tired of ignorant people suggesting that only republicans support the US constitution. If one doesn’t support the US constitution they are free to become an “expat” elsewhere.

  • Only a delusional, Democratic doofus could possibly look at this outrage and believe that even more gun control would’ve prevented it. The 2 culprits are a poisonous, hate-filled, murderous “religion” and a feckless government’s perennial state of denial. Pretending this isn’t so doesn’t seem to be solving the problem.

    • Okay. Let’s see your data on mass murderers that have occurred in workplaces and classrooms across this country. Then, let’s tune in to your denials. As far as your gun control argument goes… Well, gee, did they purchase their arms and ammo legally? If so, what would you do to prevent that from happening? Probably profile and pass laws against purchases by “those kinds of people.” It might be racist and unconstitutional… But, it’s gun control.

  • If investigators confirm the Islamic terrorist link, attacks by self-proclaimed Islamic jihadists will have killed 45 people in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Attacks by antigovernment, racist and other nonjihadist extremists have killed 48.

  • Muslim-loving Obama continues to gag and can’t bring himself to say that “peaceful” Muslims committed this act of ISIS inspired terrorism on U.S. soil. Meanwhile, his lax visa screening policies allow all kinds of people with questionable backgrounds into the U.S. Democrats continue to wail about gun control, when this attack took place in a “gun free zone.” Having concealed carry laws and armed people among the populace could have significantly reduced the carnage. Our hapless Government can’t stop the flow of illegal drugs, what makes these loony Dems think that criminals will somehow follow the law and not manufacture or import guns illegally?

    The Dems ignore the dozen plus pipe bombs the San Bernardino terrorists had. Where are the calls to ban “pipe bombs?” Obama, the feckless and ineffective president continues to be an embarrassment to our nation. All the Dems can do is exploit this sad loss of life to advance their anti-gun agenda to kill the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights.

  • Many other media sources are surprised that the FBI released the two terrorist’s rental home to owner of the property so soon. Also their personal vehicle were left on the street instead of impounded. The owner also permitted the press and the public to an open house to show where the pipe bombs were being manufactured. One wonders how quickly the FBI released the premises and auto. The usual MO is forensically examine examine the property premises for whatever evidence that can be garnered relating to connections to others. For example there were many credit cards belonging to terrorist strewn on the bed, some of the weapons were purchased legally but other were purchased by others not disclosed that may have nexus to the wanton killings. Appears as though the FBI has been directed to suppress any further investigation and curtail further efforts to determine others involved.

  • Obama has been wrong on terror and has failed to protect our country and lead the war against radical Islam. And remember when voting that our Congressmen and Senators (with exception of Tulsi)back every single agenda of the President. Schatz is a virtual clone when it comes to Obama policies and does not care about the “people” of Hawaii. Only cares about his political ambition and party.

  • I wonder if Republicans will finally stop opposing the AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) in Syria. They’ve been playing politics with it for too long. On the one hand, they want more military engagement in Syria but, on the other hand, they won’t authorize it. They seem to think that if they don’t authorize what Obama is doing, even if it’s what they say they want, they’ll preserve their right to be critical. More interested in playing politics than in results in Syria.

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