US: FBI investigating US rampage as ‘act of terrorism’

5th Dec 2015
US: FBI investigating US rampage as ‘act of terrorism’
NEW YORK (AA) – A mass shooting by a married couple that killed 14 victims in California is now being investigated as terrorism, officials said Friday.

 

“Based on the information and the facts that we know … we are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism,” David Bowdich, an assistant director at the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said during a news conference.

Asked about reports that one of the suspects used Facebook to pledge allegiance to the leader of Daesh, Bowdich said the post is under investigation and confirmed there was a “pledge”. He did not provide any further details.

The alleged post was made around the time of the attack by Tashfeen Malik, on an account with a different name, said CNN, citing unnamed officials.

The post, however, has been removed from the social media site and an official did not explain how authorities knew Malik made the post, according to the network.

FBI chief James Comey said there was evidence of “radicalization by the killers and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations”.

Some of the evidence collected “does not quite make sense” and there is “no indication these killers are part of a larger organized group or a cell,” he said.

“I urge you not to make too much of that … We are obviously looking very closely to those contacts but I would urge you not to overthink that,” he added.

Syed Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, were killed in an exchange of fire with police Wednesday, several hours after officials say they opened fire at a holiday party in San Bernardino, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. The shooting also left 21 people injured.

Bowdich said at least one of the suspects made a “telephonic connection” with someone else who is a subject of another FBI investigation. He said the connection was made within the U.S.

In addition to bombs and ammunition, law enforcement also found indications that the suspects attempted to destroy digital evidence, Bowdich said.

“We found two cellphones in a nearby trash can, those cellphones were actually crushed … We do continue to exploit the data from those cellphones. We do hope that the digital fingerprints that were left by these individuals will lead us to their motivation,” he added.

At the home of the suspects, a computer was found that was missing a hard drive.

Meanwhile, a leading U.S. Muslim advocacy group has urged Muslim community leaders to be alert for potential backlash from the attack.

The Council on American–Islamic Relations reported threats of violence at one mosque and hate calls.

President Barack Obama “has been disturbed” by the rhetoric that has been directed toward Muslim-Americans following the attacks in California and Paris, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

“At the same time, I think the president is confident that the vast majority of Americans understand this core principle that people aren’t targeted for violence based on their religious beliefs. That is a core value of our country,” he said.

“It has been instrumental to our efforts against groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS and other terrorist organizations to make clear that the United States is at war with those organizations, but we’re not at war with Islam,” he added. “We’re not at war with Muslims around the world.”

Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who is currently in Washington, seized an opportunity to condemned the shootings. “The entire civilized world shares a sense of loss over this horrific act of senseless violence,” he said.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said there was no known threat to the city and the surrounding region.

Bowdich said the FBI was also trying to pinpoint the suspects’ movements, confirming that Farook traveled overseas in 2013. It has been reported that he want to Saudi Arabia to marry Malik and returned to the U.S. in 2014.

“Until there is absolute clear evidence, every headline doesn’t have to say ‘Muslim massacre’ or ‘Muslim shooters,’” said David Chesley, a lawyer for the family of Syed Farook, part of the husband-wife team allegedly behind the attack. “Because it’s going to cause intolerance and what we need is forgiveness.”

The killings marked the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut in 2012, in which 26 people were killed, including 20 children.

There have been at least 351 mass shootings in the U.S. since January, according to ShootingTracker.com, a website that tracks news reports on shooting incidents.

Author: Mustafa Çağlayan, Michael Hernandez
Additional Reporting The Muslim News
[Photo: San Bernardino, California. Security forces secure social services centre for disabled shooting. Photographer: Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/AA]

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