— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) December 5, 2015
Since the terrorists were killed, the question arises as to how the couple became radicalized. They were both Muslims, and prior to Farook’s online dating relationship with Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani-born woman who lived in Saudi Arabia, there were no signs of Farook, 28, being radicalized. Those who knew him say he was not extreme in his beliefs. This had led to investigations on both, and a picture of Tashfeen Malik, 27, is now emerging as the one who masterminded the attack, and possibly, radicalized Farook.
Moments before the massacre, Malik went on Facebook under a pseudonymous account, which has since been removed, and pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The FBI reported that ISIS has not claimed responsibility for the shooting, but said it was carried out by “supporters,” whom the terrorist group prayed would be given “martyr status” by God.
Malik was born in Pakistan, Karor Lal Esan in Layyah district, and moved to Jidda, Saudi Arabia when she was about 4-years-old. She came from an educated family. As a teen, she traveled back and forth between the two countries. In 2007, she returned to Pakistan and stayed there studying until 2012, graduating with a degree in pharmacology from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan. A family member, who asked to remain anonymous, said Malik, who was once a “modern girl,” began to become more religious after a couple of years in college, noted an L.A. Times report. The family member said the Facebook postings of Tashfeen Malik were a source of concern. She began to encourage other women to become good Muslims and spoke to someone secretly on the phone in Arabic late at night.
Tashfeen Malik met Syed Farook, a Pakistani-American born in Chicago, who later moved to California, on a dating web site. Per the Farook family attorney, the couple may have met when Farook visited Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2013 to perform a Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He made another trip there in July of 2014 and returned with Malik. She traveled to the United States on a K-1 Visa, known as a “fiancé visa,” which allows entrance into the country to marry an American citizen, according to ABC News. As part of the U.S. vetting process, Malik passed FBI and Department Homeland Security background checks. But the address listed on the visa did not exist. She and Farook married one month after Malik entered the country. His family describes Farook as shy, saying this is why he used online dating to find a marriage partner.
Image via US media purports to show body of suspected lady shooter in #SanBernadino, being named as Tafsheen Malik pic.twitter.com/TKoilr9bAG
— Khalid Khan™ (@khalidkhan787) December 3, 2015
Another L.A. Times report stated that the family of Tashfeen Malik’s father’s cousin, Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh, “is known to have connections to militant Islam.” Malik’s family is from the Punjab province of Pakistan, a location where Islamic extremists exert a strong influence. Pakistani officials contacted Rabbani as part of the investigation, and he stated his disbelief. In an interview, Zahid Gishkori, a local of the Layyah district, said, “The family has some extremist credentials, and some members of Malik’s family in Karor are also involved in sectarian activities,” added the L.A. Times.
Tashfeen Malik’s husband regularly engaged in target practice and is known to have purchased guns legally. The FBI has also spoken to a third party who purchased guns used in the attack, but at press time, the individual had not been arrested. Thus far, officials report there is little chance of a formal connection between Malik and Islamic militant groups or cell groups in California. Yet, the attacks were influenced by ISIS which encourages supporters to carry out attacks in their home countries.
[Image via Handout via Getty]