The FBI said Friday it is officially investigating the mass shooting in California as an act of terrorism, while a U.S. law enforcement official said the woman who carried out the attack with her husband had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook.
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The official said Tashfeen Malik made her posts under an alias. A Facebook official said she praised the leader of the Islamic State group in a post just as the first emergency calls came in from the shooting scene. The company discovered the account Thursday and removed the profile from public view.
Malik and Syed Farook killed 14 people Wednesday at a holiday party for his co-workers. The Muslim couple were killed hours later in a gunbattle with police.
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, was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents and raised in California.
Another U.S. official said Malik expressed "admiration" for the extremist group's leader on Facebook under the alias account. But the official said there was no sign that anyone affiliated with the Islamic State communicated back with her.
The Islamic State-affiliated news agency Aamaq said Friday the two shooters were "supporters" of the group, but it stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.
The two U.S. officials were not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Facebook official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed under corporate policy to be quoted by name.
Separately, a U.S. intelligence official said on Thursday that Farook had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media.
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.
Two weeks ago, with Americans on edge over the Islamic State attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, FBI Director James Comey said that U.S. authorities had no specific or credible intelligence pointing to an attack on American soil.
Seventy-one people have been charged in the U.S. since March 2014 in connection with supporting ISIS, 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.
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 intelligence officials said Malik moved as a child with her family to Saudi Arabia 25 years ago.
The two officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that the family is originally from a town in Punjab province and that the father initially moved to Saudi Arabia around three decades ago for work.
Another person close to the Saudi government said Malik didn't stay in Saudi Arabia, eventually returning to Pakistan and living in the capital, Islamabad, though she returned to Saudi Arabia for visits. The person was not authorized to speak publicly, and did so on condition of anonymity.
Farook had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attack, authorities said.
He and his wife built pipe bombs and stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammunition for the commando-style assault Wednesday on a gathering of Farook's colleagues.
"This was a person who was successful, who had a good job, a good income, a wife and a family. What was he missing in his life?" asked Nizaam Ali, who worshipped with Farook at a mosque in San Bernardino.
Authorities said that the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into the room before fleeing and had more than 1,600 rounds left when they were killed. At home, they had 12 pipe bombs, tools to make more explosives and well over 4,500 rounds, police said.
The dead ranged in age from 26 to 60. Among the 21 injured were two police officers hurt during the manhunt, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday.
The soft-spoken Farook was known to pray every day at San Bernardino's Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque.
The last time a friend, Rahemaan Ali, saw him was three weeks ago, when Farook stopped coming to pray. Rahemaan Ali said Farook seemed happy and his usual self.