One of the San Bernadino shooters reportedly had contact with people connected to at least two foreign terrorist organizations before the couple opened fire in an office building Wednesday, killing 14 people.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday, citing an anonymous federal law enforcement official, that Syed Farook was in contact with members of the Al Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and the African extremist group Al-Shabaab. The official told the Times “some type” of contact between Farook and the terror groups, but it was unclear what kind of contact the parties had.
The report of Farook’s potential ties to terror groups comes after Fox News confirmed that Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged her allegiance to the Islamic State as the morning began. She and her husband were killed hours later in a shootout with police just two miles away. Those developments confirmed the suspicions of many, and left it obvious, that Malik, at least, was driven by radical Islam.
Malik pledged her allegiance to ISIS leader and self-proclaimed “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Facebook, and was confirmed by an official of the social networking website. They said she posted the pledge just before she and Farook stormed a San Bernadino party for his co-workers before escaping. The 29-year-old Pakistani woman has remained largely a named without a face until the FBI released a picture of her early Saturday.
"Usually it's ISIS supporters trying to radicalize young girls online as they try to find new wives, but this may be the first case I know of where the opposite happened," said Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst for Clarion Project, which tracks international terrorism.
Authorities told the Los Angeles Times authorities in Pakistan are investigating whether Malik had ties to radical Islamist organizations.
There have been reports Farook had ties to radicals in Pakistan and had a trip made there in recent years, but a source connected to the Pakistani Consulate in Los Angeles told Fox News Friday that he didn’t possess a Pakistani passport and there is no record of him applying for a visa to travel to Pakistan through his local consulate. That didn’t preclude the possibility that he may have entered the country illegally of obtained a visa overseas or elsewhere.
The FBI acknowledged Friday that it is treating the investigation into the massacre in San Bernadino as an act of terrorism. FBI Director James Comey affirmed the bureau’s LA office’s characterization earlier Friday.
"This is now a federal terrorism investigation," Comey said, alluding to evidence collected from electronic devices and reports that Farook and Malik may have been sympathetic to radical terrorist groups prior to the attack.
David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, told reporters in a Friday afternoon news conference before Comey’s announcement the agency was investigating the attack as an act of terrorism “for good reason.”
Bowdich, who said neither of the two were on law enforcement's radar prior to the attack, cited several factors for the focus on terrorism, including "extensive planning" that went into the attack. The pair attempted to cover up their digital trail, damaging hard drives and other electronic devices, Bowdich said. Investigators did find two cell phones recovered from trash cans near the couple's Redlands home, and recovered evidence of communications with others who are now being investigated.
“They tried to wipe out their digital fingerprints,” he said, adding that digital communications will likely provide further substantiation of the motive, but "it's not a three-day process."
Though little information continues to trickle in about Malik, a large part of her life remains a mystery. A leader of the area’s Pakistani-American Muslim community said has “no presence on the Internet or having interacted with others in the Muslim community.”
Malik and Farook married in the summer of 2014 in Riverside County, Calif., according to their marriage license. The marriage and passage of criminal and national security background checks using FBI and Department of Homeland Security databases resulted in a conditional green card for Malik in July 2015, two months after she gave birth to their baby daughter.
Farook is a third-generation American from a family hailing from Karachi. Sources close to his family insisted that his marriage to Malik was not arranged. He told co-workers, who hosted a baby shower for him and his wife earlier this year, that Malik was a pharmacist. The California Board of Pharmacy has no record of her working as either a pharmacist or a pharmacist’s assistant.
Farook was described as a devout Muslim who prayed every day and recently memorized the Koran, according to brothers Nizaam and Rahemaan Ali. Rahemaan Ali said he last saw Farook three weeks ago, when he abruptly stopped going to the mosque. Ali said Farook seemed happy and his usual self, and the brothers never saw a violent side.
Prior to their marriage, Farook had multiple online dating profiles claiming he was a Sunni Muslim from a “religious but modern family” and that he was “looking for a girl who has the same outlook, wear hijab, but live life to the fullest, be my partner for snowboarding, to go out and eat with friends, go camping, working on cars with me.”
Farook was remembered as reserved by co-workers, who said he had grown his beard out in recent months – often a sign among Muslims of heightened religious devotion. He also had gotten into several heated arguments with a co-worker, Nicholas Thalasinos, about Islam. Thalasinos reportedly questioned whether Farook’s faith was truly a “religion of peace.” He was one of the 14 killed in Wednesday’s attack.
Neither Malik nor Farook had a criminal record, and the couple did not mix with the larger Pakistani-American community, and few people claim to have seen, let alone met, Malik, including neighbors. The Pakistani-American Muslim community leader, who asked that his name not be used, said the community believes is clear that someone radicalized Farook.
“This event has shaken everyone,” said the source. “The fact that Syed and his wife seemed to be so removed from the community and no one really knows much about him or his wife at all can often be a key indicator something is wrong.”
Fox News Channel's Matthew Dean, Adam Housley and Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.