Tashfeen Malik, wife of San Bernardino mass shooter Syed Farook, may have radicalized her husband. According to investigators, Malik, 27, a native of Pakistan, took to Facebook with praises for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, and swore loyalty at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, just before she and her husband launched the mass shooting attack.
Malik, who has a 6-month-old baby, reportedly swore loyalty to the ISIS leader in a post to a Facebook page under a different name. But she later deleted the account as part of efforts by the couple to erase their digital footprint before the mass shooting attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, in which 14 were killed and 21 injured.
According to officials who described the latest discovery as a “game changer,” investigators are now considering the possibility that Farook was influenced by his wife — that is, the 27-year-old Pakistani woman radicalized her husband. The suggestion comes in the context of Farook’s background as a U.S.-born citizen who had showed no signs of violence or Islamic radicalism prior to marrying Malik.
But officials only suggested that ISIS may have inspired the attack. They said there was no evidence that Malik had direct contact or links with ISIS or that the terrorist organization was involved directly in the attack or ordered it.
“This is looking more and more like self-radicalization,” a law enforcement official said.
But another official said authorities haven’t ruled out the possibility that others may have influenced the couple.
The latest information emerged as FBI agents seeking to establish a motive for the attack searched through cell phones and computer hard drives recovered from the couple’s Redlands, California, home.
Meanwhile, Farook’s sister, Saira Khan, described the action of her brother and sister-in-law as “mind-boggling” in an interview with CBS News. She said she could not understand how a couple with a 6-month-old daughter could carry out such suicidal action.
Saira and her husband, Farhan Khan, said they had no idea what Farook and his wife were planning such criminal action.
“I can never imagine my brother or my sister-in-law doing something like this,” Saira said.” Especially because they were happily married, they had a beautiful 6-month-old daughter. It’s just mind-boggling why they would do something like this.”
The couple reportedly left their 6-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, Rafia, before they went to the Inland Regional Center and opened fire on people attending a holiday party.
Mr. Khan, who said he had commenced the process for adoption of the couple’s orphaned 6-month-old baby, confirmed that Farook met his wife, Tashfeen Malik, on a dating website and that they got engaged in 2013. Before they met, Farook had performed the Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, known as Hajj.
Farook visited Saudi Arabia again in July of 2014 and returned with his new wife Malik. Malik reportedly passed a counterterrorism screening by the Department of Homeland Security.
One of Farook’s former coworkers at the San Bernardino County Health Department, Christian Nwadike, told CBS News that he agreed with the assessment that Malik radicalized her husband.
CBS News reporter David Begnaud asked Nwadike, “Do you believe that he was radicalized?”
“Yes, by the wife,” Nwadike replied. “I think he married a terrorist. He was set up through that Remarriage.”
Farook’s companions at the Dar-Al-Uloom, Al-Islamiyah Mosque in San Bernardino also noted that Farook stopped attending mosque about three weeks before the attack despite having attended regularly for several years.
Nizaam and Rahemaan Ali said the mass shooter never talked about violence but only about his education. They said that Farook, who was working for a master’s degree, also loved talking about and tinkering with cars. The two also recalled that he told them he had married a woman in Saudi Arabia.
“He never, ever talked about killing people or discussed politics, or said that he had problems at work,” Rahemaan Ali said.
“I can’t believe it. There’s no way to express the shock I’m in,” said Nizaam Ali. “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?”
Syed Rizwan Farook was born in the U.S. to Pakistani couple Syed and Rafia on June 14, 1987, and was raised in Southern California. He worked as an environmental health specialist with the San Bernardino County. It has been revealed that his older brother, Syed Raheel Farook, is a Navy veteran who has received a medal for his role in the war on terror.
Farook’s wife Malik arrived in the U.S. from Islamabad on a K-1 visa for fiancées. She was born in Pakistan and moved to Saudi Arabia at about the age of 19.
Farook and Malik were married on Aug. 16, 2014.
Farook reportedly clashed at work with a Jewish co-worker Nicholas Thalasinos, one of the victims in the mass shooting on Wednesday. David Chesley, attorney representing the Farook family, claimed that Farook was repeatedly teased by co-workers over his long Islamic beard.
The FBI said agents recovered about 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs and IED components from the couple’s home in Redlands, California.
Investigators also revealed on Thursday that Farook had been in touch with individuals on the FBI terror watch list.
But an official downplayed the nature of contact, saying, that “these appear to be soft connections,” implying that the contact was very infrequent.
[Photo By Chris Carlson/AP]