San Bernardino shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS, FBI leading terror probe

Tashfeen Malik pledged allegiance to an Islamic State leader on Facebook before carrying out the attacks in San Bernardino that killed 14, according to authorities. 

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
A handwritten note is seen at a pop-up memorial for the victims of Wednesday's attacks in San Bernardino, California December 4, 2015. Authorities are investigating the San Bernardino, California, shooting as an act of terrorism, Federal Bureau of Investigation assistant director David Bowdich said at a news conference on Friday.

Questions over the motives behind the shooting at a San Bernardino holiday party Wednesday may be closer to being answered after a Facebook post revealed a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State by the female shooter, Tashfeen Malik, officials said Friday.

The Facebook post is the latest clue for investigators on the motivations for the deadly attack which left 14 dead earlier this week.

The FBI is now treating the deadly shooting rampage as "an act of terrorism." 

“As of today, based on the information and facts as we know them,” David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said at a Friday news conference. The FBI has taken over as the lead investigative body on the shooting.

According to the Los Angeles Times,

The officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, cautioned that the new evidence did not mean that the militant group directed Malik and her husband to carry out the Wednesday attack, and that investigators think it instead suggests that the couple had become self-radicalized.

One of the officials said Malik's Facebook post was made under a different name and had since been removed, apparently by Malik herself, but FBI technicians were able to recover it.

Ms. Malik was born in Pakistan and moved to Saudi Arabia before her engagement to Syed Rizwan Farook. She studied in Pakistan and graduated in 2012 with a degree in pharmacy. According to local officials, her family originated from Karor Lal East in the Layyah District of Pakistan's Punjab province.

The couple met online a few years ago and married in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They returned to Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2014, according to the Saudi Embassy in Washington. The couple was in their late 20s and married last year after Malik gained legal permanent resident status in the United States.

There was no evidence prior to Wednesday's attack that indicated a direct connection to Islamic State militants, leading some investigators to believe that the couple had become self-radicalized. Malik’s family claims they had no knowledge of her sympathies for the group.

“At this point we believe they were more self-radicalized and inspired by the group than actually told to do the shooting,” an official told the New York Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

“As far as I know, there was no discussion of any of that [among family members],” Mohammad Abuershaid told the Los Angeles Times. Abuershaid added that Malik’s family was very conservative but she didn’t discuss world issues like the Middle East with her in-laws. “Tashfeen was an invidual who kept to herself most of the time.”

According to senior federal officials, Malik’s husband, Mr. Farook, was likely in contact with a small handful of alleged extremists, including one with al Shabab and another with the Nusra Front in Syria. Together, Malik and Farook amassed a small but deadly arsenal of weapons and explosives in their Redlands home, including pipe bombs and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The firearms were all purchased legally.

They fired as many as 150 bullets before being shot by police, killing 14 and injuring 21 more.

“Certianly they were equipped and they could have continued to do another attack … We intercepted them,” San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a news conference Thursday. 

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