San Bernardino shootings: Pakistani-origin couple behind California carnage

Published: December 4, 2015
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FBI agents examine a car outside a house in Redlands, California. PHOTO: AFP

FBI agents examine a car outside a house in Redlands, California. PHOTO: AFP

Police authorities confirmed on Thursday that the young couple that mowed down 14 people in San Bernardino and were later slain in a shootout with police were originally from Pakistan.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, have been identified as the assailants behind the carnage at San Bernardino County Public Health Department that left at least 14 people dead and another 21 injured.

While Farook was an American national whose parents are believed to have come from Pakistan, Tashfeen was in the US on a K-1 visa with a Pakistani passport. The K-1 category allows entry of fiancé(e) of US nationals to marry within 90 days of their entry into the States.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken over the case after police found thousands of ammunition rounds and home-made bombs at the couple’s house.

The couple was killed during a standoff with police five hours after the massacre. More than 1,600 bullets were found on or around the shooters’ bodies in the rented Ford Expedition SUV. At their home, a massive arsenal of 2,000 9mm rounds, 2,500 .223-calibre rounds and several hundred long-rifle bullets were seized along with 12 pipe bombs and tools that can be used to construct improvised explosive devices.

Police investigators and the FBI are scouring computers and electronic devices found at the rented property for more evidence.

Law enforcement officials believe the couple met in 2014 in Saudi Arabia, where Farook probably went for the annual religious pilgrimage of Hajj to Makkah. Tashfeen was a Pakistani-born immigrant who lived in Saudi Arabia before marriage.

FBI Assistant Director David Bowditch said Farook brought Tashfeen over to the US in July 2014. He said the man also travelled to Pakistan at some point, but did not divulge any more details.

The couple had dropped off their six-month-old baby with Farook’s mother before donning assault clothing, arming themselves with rifles and storming the San Bernardino County party. Together they carried out the deadliest US mass shooting since Sandy Hook in December 2012.

The attack was also a rarity in another way. In the US, mass shootings are rarely carried out by more than one attacker, and women almost never carry out such assaults.

Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles told CNN, that Farook’s family said they “had no clue that this could happen”.

“The suspect is married, has a six-month-old baby. They have no reason [about] what made him snap. Was it workplace related? Is it mental illness? Is it some twisted ideology? It is really unknown to us. All they [the family] can do [is] share everybody’s sorrow and prayers,” he added.

Farook graduated from California State University with a degree in environmental health in 2009.

Born in Chicago, he worked as an environmental health specialist for the San Bernardino County, inspecting restaurants for health violations, according to a website that tracks public employees. He earned more than $71,000 in salary and benefits in 2013.

On an internet dating profile created six years ago on iMilap.com, he said he enjoyed reading religious books and shooting targets practice with his younger sister. He wrote he enjoyed working on vintage and modern cars, and read religious books while enjoying eating out sometimes.

Farook was also registered on Dubaimatrimonial.com, where he described himself as being from Karachi, Pakistan, but was born in Chicago and was residing in Los Angeles as an American citizen.

Patrick Baccari, Farook’s co-worker, said the suspect was gone for about a month in the spring. A short time after his return, he was joined by his wife, a woman he described as a pharmacist.

An online baby registry on TheBump.com attributed to Tashfeen by NBC News mentions the city of Riverside, California, as the mother’s address and a due date of May 17, 2015. Her short wish-list included Pampers diapers for newborns, cotton swabs, baby body wash and a convertible car seat.

Farook joins the long list of Pakistani-Americans caught, killed or jailed for carrying or abetting terrorism in the US.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2015.

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