Richard A. Serrano and Teresa Watanabe
December 12, 2015
As FBI divers continue to paddle the murky waters of a lake in San Bernardino, the federal investigation into the massacre at a county health department gathering is reaching a critical juncture: With whom were the two shooters in contact?
Officials have described Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, as “self-radicalized” terrorists since they killed 14 people and wounded 21 in the Dec. 2 attack.
But several federal law enforcement officials, speaking confidentially Friday and Saturday because the investigation is ongoing, are also concerned that the two shooters could have been jointly or independently in direct contact with members of one or more foreign terror operations.
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The Islamic State group has described both shooters as “supporters” but has not claimed responsibility for the attack, unlike its immediate move to do so after the Paris terrorist assaults last month. The couple had pledged allegiance to the terror organization shortly before they launched their assault on the Inland Regional Center.
Whether Farook and Malik were ordered to carry out a terrorist attack may well be determined based on what the divers bring up from the bottom of Seccombe Lake.
Several undisclosed items were retrieved Friday, and the divers went back into the water Saturday in search of the couple’s computer hard drive and other electronic components. Officials are working on a tip that the shooters hurried to the area near the lake on the day of the attack and disposed of personal items there.
In addition, agents have recovered from a large trash container two smashed cellphones, and are examining those and other items from the couple’s Redlands home at the FBI’s crime lab in Quantico, Va.
The items are surfacing as key pieces of evidence that officials hope will eventually unravel the mystery behind the worst terror attack in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, FBI Director James Comey was asked whether a foreign terror network arranged the couple’s introduction and eventual marriage in order for Malik, a Pakistani related to several radical Islamic militants, to slip from Saudi Arabia into the United States after Farook, a self-radicalized American, combed the Internet and traveled abroad in search of a wife.
Evidence of a terror group’s involvement in the San Bernardino plot would be a significant development.
“Somebody had to put these two people together,” said one FBI source. “It’s a big world for them to just find each other.”
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