SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The California couple who killed 14 people last week at an office holiday party had been adherents of a radical strain of Islam for “some time,” the FBI said Monday as investigators raced to assemble a clearer picture of how the attack was planned.
David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said investigators have yet to determine whether Syed Rizwan Farook, a 28-year-old county health inspector, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29, had been drawn into violent extremism by someone they knew or whether they had developed those beliefs on their own.
“Both subjects were radicalized and have been for quite some time,” Bowdich said at a news conference here. “How did that happen and by whom and where did that happen? I will tell you right now, we don’t know those answers at this point.”
The FBI was working Monday to confirm reports that Malik, who was born in Pakistan, had ties to Islamabad’s Red Mosque, which is notorious for its connections to Islamic fundamentalism, an FBI official said. Mosque officials have denied any association with her.
Whatever the roots of their beliefs, the couple had prepared carefully for the attack, Bowdich said, visiting local shooting ranges to practice their aim as recently as a few days before the massacre.
The Dec. 2 shooting, which also wounded 21, was the deadliest act of terrorism on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The attack has renewed debate over the nation’s gun laws and sparked criticism of President Obama’s campaign against militant groups.
Bowdich said the investigation into the shooting is “massive in scale.” So far, authorities have interviewed more than 400 people and collected more than 300 pieces of evidence.
But critical questions remain. Officials have yet to uncover any indication that the attack was plotted with help from overseas, Bowdich said. Nor do they know whether anyone in this country other than Farook and Malik took part in the planning. The couple died in a shootout with police four hours after they opened fire at a conference center in San Bernardino.
On Monday, federal authorities confirmed that Farook’s former neighbor, Enrique Marquez, legally purchased in California the military-grade rifles used in the attack and provided them to Farook. By the time of the attack, the rifles had been altered for greater lethality.
Marquez, 29, works as a security guard at Walmart and had lived next door to the Farook family for years. The two men shared a love of automobiles, according to neighbors interviewed this week.
Marquez checked himself into a mental health facility Friday. Authorities said he has since checked out and been questioned by the FBI, which is interested in learning when and why he provided the guns to Farook.
Bowdich also said authorities recovered 19 pipes that could be used to assemble homemade bombs during a search of the couple’s home in nearby Redlands, Calif.
Friends and family struggled to piece together clues about what might have led the couple to the violence.
The Illinois-born Farook was described as a bright student during his childhood in California. As an adult, those who knew him said, he was a devout Muslim, quiet and private.
Farook brought Malik to the United States on a fiancee visa in July 2014. But friends said they knew little about Farook’s wife. Many weren’t even aware that the couple had welcomed their first child in May 2015.
“At this time I feel like he had a double life,” Saira Khan, Farook’s sister, said in an interview with ABC News. “I feel like he was very good at concealing everything from all of us. The guy that we know, all his co-workers, everybody that knew him at the mosque, they’re all commenting just like we [are]. . . . Nobody knew him any different than how we knew him.”
While living in Pakistan, Malik spent a year studying at a conservative religious school for women in the southern Pakistani city of Multan, The New York Times reported Monday, citing school officials.
Officials at the Al Huda center in Multan said Malik enrolled in an 18-month course to study the Koran in 2013. But she left before finishing the course, telling administrators she was leaving to get married.