The woman who carried out the San Bernardino massacre with her husband had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook, a U.S. law enforcement official said Friday, providing the strongest evidence to date that the rampage may have been a terrorist attack.
The official said Tashfeen Malik made her posts under an alias and deleted them hours before she and husband Syed Farook killed 14 people Wednesday at a holiday party for his co-workers. The Muslim couple were killed hours later in a fierce gunbattle with police.
Malik, 27, was a Pakistani who came to the U.S. in 2014 on a fiancee visa. Farook, a 28-year-old restaurant health inspector for the county, was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents and raised in Southern California.
Another U.S. official said Malik expressed "admiration" for the extremist group's leader on Facebook under the alias account. But the official said there was no sign that anyone affiliated with the Islamic State communicated back with her, and there was no evidence of any operational instructions being conveyed to her.
The two officials were not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI has been investigating the shooting at a social service center as a potential act of terrorism but had reached no firm conclusions as of Thursday, with authorities cautioning repeatedly that the violence could have stemmed from a workplace grudge or a combination of motives.
Separately, a U.S. intelligence official said on Thursday that Farook himself had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media. But the official says any communications that Farook had with suspected extremists were with "people who weren't significant players on our radar."
And the official says those contacts were from some time ago.
Law enforcement officials have long warned that Americans acting in sympathy with Islamic extremists - though not on direct orders - could launch an attack inside the U.S. The Islamic State in particular has urged sympathizers worldwide to commit violence in their countries.
Farook had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attack, authorities said. Friends knew him by his quick smile, his devotion to Islam and his talk about restoring cars.
They didn't know he was busy with his wife building pipe bombs and stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition for the pre-planned commando-style assault during a Christmas gathering of Farook's coworkers from San Bernardino County's health department.
"This was a person who was successful, who had a good job, a good income, a wife and a family. What was he missing in his life?" asked Nizaam Ali, who worshipped with Farook at a mosque in San Bernardino.
Authorities said that the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into the room before fleeing and had more than 1,600 rounds left when they were killed. At home, they had 12 pipe bombs, tools to make more explosives and well over 4,500 rounds, police said.
Police Lt. Mike Madden, one of the first officers to reach the room, said the carnage was unspeakable, the scene overwhelming: the smell of gunpowder, the wails of the wounded, the blood, fire sprinklers going off and fire alarms blaring. All in a room with a Christmas tree and decorations on every table.
The dead ranged in age from 26 to 60. Among the 21 injured were two police officers hurt during the manhunt, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday. Nearly all the dead and wounded were county employees.
They were remembered Thursday night as several thousand mourners gathered at a ballpark for a candlelight and prayer vigil with leaders of several religions.
The soft-spoken Farook was known to pray every day at San Bernardino's Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque. That is where Nizaam Ali and his brother Rahemaan Ali met Farook.
The last time Rahemaan Ali saw his friend was three weeks ago, when Farook abruptly stopped coming to pray. Rahemaan Ali said Farook seemed happy and his usual self. Both brothers said they never saw anything to make them think Farook was violent.
They said Farook reported meeting his future wife online.
Brother-in-law was trying to adopt Farook and Malik's child
Farook's brother-in-law says Farook was a "bad person," but he wasn't radical.
Farhan Khan told NBC News he is beginning the legal process to adopt Farook's 6-month-old daughter, who was dropped off with Farook's mother Wednesday morning before the shooting. He told relatives he had a doctor's appointment to attend to.
Authorities looking into gun purchases
While authorities say all four guns carried by the shooters were purchased legally, authorities are looking for the man who bought the two rifles.
Farook bought the pistols, but a man authorities won't identify bought the rifles.
It's not known if the man was acting on Farook's behalf when he bought the weapons or if they were stolen and then used in the attack.
The official says the guns were all purchased in California.
San Bernardino County authorities have released the names of the 14 people shot and killed during a health department party.
The victims were from Southern California and ranged in age from 26 to 60. They are:
- Robert Adams, 40, of Yucaipa.
- Isaac Amanios, 60, of Fontana.
- Bennetta Bet-Badal, 46, of Rialto.
- Harry Bowman, 46, of Upland.
- Sierra Clayborn, 27, of Moreno Valley.
- Juan Espinoza, 50, of Highland.
- Aurora Godoy, 26, of San Jacinto.
- Shannon Johnson, 45, of Los Angeles.
- Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42, of Rialto.
- Damian Meins, 58, of Riverside.
- Tin Nguyen, 31, of Santa Ana.
- Nicholas Thalasinos, 52, of Colton.
- Yvette Velasco, 27, of Fontana.
- Michael Wetzel, 37, of Lake Arrowhead.