Female California shooter ‘had become more devout’

A woman and elderly man leave the house of Gulzar Ahmed Malik. Picture: AFP/Getty
A woman and elderly man leave the house of Gulzar Ahmed Malik. Picture: AFP/Getty
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In the final few years of Tashfeen Malik’s life, the people around the young woman saw her dress ever more conservatively and urge people ever more ardently to live a devout life.

For an aunt in Malik’s old hometown of Pakistan, Malik’s growing religious focus was one of the last things the aunt heard about her 29-year-old niece - before last week, when the relative learned that her niece and her niece’s husband had donned face masks, hoisted assault rifles and killed 14 people in a rampage in southern California in the United States.

“I recently heard it from relatives that she has become a religious person, and she often tells people to live according to the teachings of Islam,” recalled aunt Hifza Batool.

Batool spoke in the town of Karor Lal Esan, the home of Malik’s family, 280 miles south-west of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Malik’s path from Pakistan to the bloody events of this past week - when she and her husband slaughtered people gathered for a holiday work party - remains a mystery.

Officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, family lawyers and others said they know little about the housewife and mother, apart from what came to light on Friday: that Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group on Facebook as she and her American-born husband, Syed Farook, 28, launched the massacre.

The husband and wife were killed in a furious shootout with police hours after they opened fire on a gathering of Farook’s colleagues from the San Bernardino County public health department, where he worked as a restaurant inspector.

The FBI said it is investigating the rampage as a terrorist attack.

Early on Saturday, authorities with guns drawn raided a home next door to the house where Farook’s family used to live in the city Riverside in California, breaking windows and using a cutting torch to get into the garage, neighbours said.

The FBI would not say what it was looking for, but a neighbour said an old friend of Farook’s lives there. More than three years ago, that person bought the two assault rifles later used in the shooting, but authorities have not been able to talk to him because he checked himself into a mental hospital after the attack, said a police official.

The FBI has said the man is not a suspect in the shootings, though they want to question him. US officials said that Farook had been in contact with extremists via social media. One official said those contacts were not recent and did not involve any significant players on the FBI’s radar.

Farook was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents and raised in southern California. Malik arrived in the US in 2014 on a Pakistani passport and a fiancee visa but had spent extended periods of time in Saudi Arabia.

She started studying pharmacy at Bahauddin Zakariya University in the Pakistani city of Multan in 2012.

A maid who worked in the Multan home where Malik lived said that Malik initially wore a scarf that covered her head but not her face. A year before she got married, she began wearing a scarf that covered all but her nose and eyes, the maid said.

In his weekly radio address President Barack Obama said the US “will not be terrorised” by the mass shootings.