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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 27 January 2021

US officials say San Bernardino gunman had been in contact with terror suspects

However, these were not “significant players” according to the FBI, but were still under scrutiny.

APTOPIX California Shootings The black SUV that was involved in a police shootout with the suspects. Source: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

CALIFORNIA GUNMAN SYED Rizwan Farook had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media, a US intelligence official has said, and police said he and his wife had enough bullets and bombs to slaughter hundreds when they launched their deadly attack on a holiday party.

The details emerged as investigators tried to determine whether the rampage that left 14 people dead was terrorism, a workplace grudge or some combination.

The husband-and-wife killers were not under FBI scrutiny before the massacre, said a second US official, who likewise was not authorised to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Wearing black tactical gear and wielding assault rifles, Farook, a 28-year-old county restaurant inspector, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, sprayed dozens of rounds into a room at a social service centre for the disabled, where about 75 of Farook’s co-workers had gathered Wednesday morning.

Syed Rizwan Farook Syed Rizwan Farook Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles via AP

Farook had attended the event but slipped out and returned armed.

Four hours later and two miles away, the couple died in a furious gunbattle with police.

On Thursday, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan offered a grim inventory that suggested Wednesday’s bloodbath could have been far worse.

At the social service centre, the couple left three rigged-together pipe bombs with a remote-control detonating device that apparently malfunctioned, and they had more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition remaining when police killed them in their rented SUV, Burguan said.

California Shootings Weapons carried by suspects. Source: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department via AP

At a family home in the nearby town of Redlands, they had 12 pipe bombs, tools for making more, and over 3,000 additional rounds of ammunition, the chief said.

“We don’t know if this was workplace rage or something larger or a combination of both,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in Washington, echoing President Barack Obama.

We don’t know the motivation.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Farook, who was Muslim, became radicalised — and, if so, how — as well as whether he was in contact with any foreign terrorist organisation, said the US intelligence official, who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The same official said Farook had been in touch on social media with extremists who were under FBI scrutiny.

The second US official said the FBI was treating the attack as a potential act of terror but had reached no conclusion that it was.

California Shootings Source: Associated Press

The official said Farook had communication with individuals who were under FBI scrutiny, but the contact was with “people who weren’t significant players on our radar”, dated back some time, and there was no immediate indication of a surge in communication before the shooting.

The official cautioned that such contact by itself doesn’t mean someone is a terrorist.

Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, an organisation that tracks and analyses extremists, said it hasn’t found any connection between Farook and jihadi groups. But she also said that some of Farook’s social media posts seem to have been deleted before the attack.

Wednesday’s rampage was the nation’s deadliest mass shooting since 2012, when 26 children and adults were slain in Newtown, Connecticut.

In San Bernardino, a Southern California city of 214,000, the victims ranged in age from 26 to 60. A further 21 people were injured, including two police officers, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday.

Nearly all the dead and wounded were county employees.

Farook has no known criminal record, Burguan said. He was born in Chicago to a Pakistani family, raised in Southern California and worked at San Bernardino County’s Department of Public Health for two stints totalling four years since 2010, according to authorities and acquaintances. The Saudi Embassy said he travelled to Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2014 for nine days.

As for Malik, she came to the US in July 2014 on a Pakistani passport and a fiancée visa, authorities said. To get the visa, immigrants submit to an interview and biometric and background checks — screening intended to identify anyone who might pose a threat.

Read: Bombs and thousands of bullets found at California shooting suspects’ house >

More: Couple left baby with relatives before shooting rampage that claimed 14 lives >

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