The woman who helped her husband kill 14 people at a holiday banquet for his colleagues pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook using an alias, then deleted the messages before the attack, a US law enforcement official said yesterday, providing the strongest evidence to date that the rampage may have been a terrorist attack.
The remarkable disclosure about the online activities of Tashfeen Malik provided the first significant details suggesting a motive for her participation with her husband, Syed Farook, in the shooting.
Malik was a Pakistani woman who came to the US in 2014 on a fiancee visa before Farook married her in California. They had a six-month-old daughter.
Malik’s alias on Facebook and specifics about her postings were not publicly disclosed by the law enforcement official.
Another US official said Malik expressed “admiration” for the extremist group’s leader on Facebook under the alias account and said there was no sign that anyone affiliated with the Islamic State group communicated back to her and no signs of any operational instructions being conveyed to her.
The FBI was investigating the shooting as a potential act of terrorism but had reached no firm conclusions. Separately, a US intelligence official said Farook had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media. At the same time, law enforcement officials, from local police to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, cautioned it could have been work-related rage. Or a twisted hybrid of religion and personal vendetta.
Farook, 28, had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attacks.
They didn’t know the man authorities say was busy with his wife building homemade bombs and stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition for a commando-style assault on Wednesday on a holiday party of his co-workers that killed 14 and injured 21.
“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 – the city east of Los Angeles where Farook killed and died.
Authorities say that the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into the room before fleeing. They died four hours later and two miles away during a furious gunbattle with police.
Meanwhile, several thousand mourners from across southern California and beyond gathered on Thursday for a candlelight and prayer vigil.