Investigators believe that the female shooter involved in Wednesday’s deadly rampage in California, had pledged allegiance to Da’ish (Islamic State) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a Facebook post on an alias account.
One US official familiar with the investigation said Tashfeen Malik, 27, had posted on a Facebook account under a different name just as the attack was going on. The officials did not explain how they knew Malik was responsible for the post, CNN reported.
Malik and her American-born husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, had burst into a year-end party in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire on a roomful of Farook’s co-workers, killing 14 and wounding 21.
David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, announced at a press conference on Friday morning that they were investigating the mass shooting as an “act of terrorism” after details of Malik’s deleted Facebook post came to light.
A US official told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that Malik had expressed “admiration” for Baghdadi in the Facebook post. A Facebook executive said that the post was made at the same time the first calls to police were made about the attack.
Meanwhile, Malik’s relatives in her native district of Layyah said that they have been questioned by Pakistani security officials in connection with the attack.
Tashfeen hailed from DG Khan
Malik hailed from Taunsa tehsil in DG Khan district of Punjab but had lived much of her life in Saudi Arabia.
Malik was born to Haji Gulzar Ahmed Malik, patron of a prosperous Seraiki-speaking family in Vehoa city, in DG Khan. She has two sisters and two brothers and was related to former provincial minister Ahmed Ali Aulak.
Haji Gulzar had moved from his native city to Layyah for a short while before taking his family to Rawalpindi as he pursued his business. That pursuit took Haji Gulzar to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia almost 25 years ago.
However, with educational opportunities limited for non-residents in Saudi Arabia, Haji Gulzar sent his daughters to Pakistan to complete their higher studies. Following in her older sister’s footsteps, Malik arrived in Pakistan to study pharmacy at the Bahauddin Zakaria University.
Her maternal uncle told The Express Tribune that she came back around five to six years ago. Like her sister, she completed her D-Pharm with a 74.88 percentage.
After completing her studies, Malik returned to Saudi Arabia.
Farook was born in an Urdu-speaking household in Illinois to Syed and Rafia Farook. In 2013 Farook visited Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj.
After he met Malik apparently through an online matrimonial service, Rizwan returned to Saudi Arabia to meet her family.
The duo married two years ago and moved to the US where they had a six-month-old baby.
Just hours before the couple opened fire on Farook’s co-workers in a government building in San Bernardino, they had dropped off their daughter at his mother’s house, telling her they had a doctor’s appointment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Malik was in the United States on a visa under a Pakistani passport.
One of Malik’s uncles, Javed Rabbani, said her father, Haji Gulzar, had changed during their time in Saudi Arabia. “When relatives visited him, they would come back and tell us how conservative and hard-line he had become,” Rabbani said.
Her maternal uncle disclosed that both Malik and Farook were religiously inclined.
However, a source close to the Saudi government said that during Malik’s time in Saudi Arabia nothing came to authorities’ attention there that suggested she was involved with radical Islamic groups.
Malik was not on any Saudi law enforcement or intelligence watchlist, the source said.
Pakistan condemns attack
The Pakistan embassy in Washington DC on Friday condemned the attack and offered condolences to families of the victims.
“It is hoped that the investigations would lead the authorities to the perpetrators of this act to justice sooner,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, security officials have started inquiring about Malik with her relatives in DG Khan questioned.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2015.