San Bernardino: California alleged shooter Syed Farook had contact with people from at least two militant organisations overseas, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday, citing a federal law enforcement official.
The official described “some kind” of contact between Farook and people from the Nusra Front and the radical al Shabaab group in Somalia, the Times reported.
It is unclear what type of contact or with whom, the newspaper said.
The FBI is investigating the deadly mass shooting in California by a Pakistani-origin couple that killed 14 people as an act of terrorism, officials said today.
The massacre in San Bernardino on Wednesday that killed 14 people and injured 17 others, carried out by a Pakistani- American man and his Pakistani immigrant wife, is being investigated as an “an act of terrorism,” David Bowdich, the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Los Angeles office, told reporters.
“As of today, based on the information and the facts as we know them, we are investigating this horrific crime as an act of terrorism,” he said.
Many questions remain unanswered about the motives of the killers and what contacts they had with other terrorists either domestically or overseas, he said.
A determination in this regard has been made given the extensive planning, the high-powered weaponry and the amount of armaments worn by Syed Rizwan Farook and his Pakistani-born wife Tashfeen Malik in carrying out the killing, he said.
The FBI which has the lead in the investigation has found that Chicago-born Farook, 28, had some communication with extremist elements, and at least one of them was on the US watch list.
Farook and Malik, 27, tried to destroy their digital trail by crushing their cellphones and tossing them into a public trashcan, he said.
But the phones have been retrieved and FBI investigators are extracting information from them, Bowdich said.
The FBI is not aware of any credible terrorist threat to the US, officials said, with the White House articulating that the administration is fully geared to take all necessary steps to protect the homeland.
“We are not aware of any further threats in the US at this time,” Bowdich said.
Earlier, the White House said all necessary steps have been taken and will be taken to protect the country.
“The president continues to be confident that while the US government is vigilant in doing what’s necessary, all that’s necessary, all that’s possible to protect the American people, that the American people can continue on with their lives with a sense of confidence about the future,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Obama and his national security team remain vigilant, Earnest said.
“We’ve got national security professionals who work 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, focused on keeping the homeland safe and trying to detect these plots and disrupt them when necessary. So this continues to get the intense focus of the president and his national security team,” he said.
The FBI chief said there is nothing in their holdings about the two killers.
“I have seen reporting where folks have focused on reports at least one of the killers was in contact with people who had been the subject of FBI investigations, either investigations that were closed or that were still open,” he said and asked the media not to make too much of that.
“There were no contacts between either of the killers and subjects of our investigations that were such of a significance that it raised these killers up onto our radar screen. We’re obviously looking very closely at those contacts, but I would not want you to over index on that just yet,” he said.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes commended the FBI for acknowledging the San Bernardino killings as an act of terror.
“It is now time for President (Barack) Obama to acknowledge that this act was committed by the same Islamic jihadist movement – including al Qaeda and its estranged sister organisation ISIS – that we have battled for fifteen years,” he said.
“Despite the President’s statements that ISIS is contained and that al Qaeda is on the run, the events in San Bernardino show that the threat is real and growing.
“For the sake of the safety of the American people and our allies, the President must use every available resource to take the fight to the enemy,” Nunes said.
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “If we’re going to keep the American people safe, the administration must put forward the broad and aggressive strategy needed to defeat Islamist terrorism and protect our country.”
“We now have yet another case of radicalization fuelled by the internet and social media – a method that terrorists have exploited for years. When is this administration going to wake up?” Royce asked.
(With Agency inputs)