As investigation progresses into San Bernardino attack, ISIS praises the work of 'lions'

by Gregory Tomlin, |
A police helicopter flies over emergency vehicles during a manhunt which followed a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California December 2, 2015. Gunmen opened fire on a holiday party on Wednesday at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, then fled the scene, triggering an intense manhunt and a shootout with police, authorities said. | REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (Christian Examiner) – Law enforcement sources have confirmed the identity of two suspects responsible for the mass shooting at a San Bernardino, Calif., office building which claimed the lives of 14 people and wounded at least 17 others.

According to reports from the scene of the shooting, two gunmen dressed in military-style uniforms, face masks, tactical gear and armed with semi-automatic rifles entered the Inland Regional Center and opened fire on an employee holiday party. Several of the wounded victims remain in critical condition.

Police identified Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, reportedly an American citizen with ties to Pakistan, as one of the shooters.

Hours after the shooting, police acting on a tip about Farook, were waiting at a house associated with the suspect in neighboring Redlands, Calif., when they observed a dark-colored SUV matching the description of the get-away car near the scene. They gave chase and the pursuit ended with a shootout which claimed the lives of both Farook, employed by the county as a restaurant inspector, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, a Saudi national, who has now been identified as the second shooter.

Farook and Malik had a six-month-old daughter. They reportedly dropped the child off with relatives before the shooting. Law enforcement sources also said Farook had traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

Authorities also obtained a search warrant for Farook and Malik's home. Police sent robots into the house to detonate multiple suspected explosive devices before law enforcement officers entered. One source later called the home an IED making facility. The vehicle in which the suspects died also contained "roll out bags" full of explosives and ammunition, indications that Farook and Malik were not finished with the killing for the day.

Authorities have not yet drawn connections between Farook and international terror groups, but the Islamic State took to social media and praised the attack of the "three lions" involved in the attack. Police initially said a third suspect was part of the plot, but have said little about that claim since the shootings took place.

One of the social media posts carried the moniker "#America_Burning."

"Three lions made us proud. They are still alive," another tweet said, according to analysis of the Arabic-language tweets by Vocativ. It also claimed, "California streets are full with soldiers with heavy weapons. The United States is burning. #America_Burning # Takbir."

"Takbir" is a term used to refer to the general call of jihadists, "God is Greater" – or "Allah Akbar." Normally, the refrain is shouted by terrorists as they kill. However, no witness to the San Bernardino shooting has yet reported hearing either of the gunmen shouting the phrase.

Another Islamic State supporter posted to a social media forum, "God is great and he the one to be praised for that. This is hell with god's will."

Another posted on Twitter, "God is the greatest. May god spread fear in the homes of the Crusaders."

Shortly after the incident occurred, the Council on American Islamic Relations sought to get out in front of the crisis and condemn the shooting, an unusual step for the organization and one that indicates it believed the action likely was a terrorist act.

"We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured," the executive director of CAIR's Los Angeles office, Hussam Ayloush, said in a press release before the press conference. "The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence."

Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, spoke at the press conference.

"We have condemned all violence, everywhere," Siddiqi said. "Our faith has nothing to do with [the shooting]; our faith is against this kind of behavior."

A visibly shaken Farhan Khan, brother-in-law of the deceased suspect, Syed Farook, said, "Why would he do something like this? I have absolutely no idea. I am in shock myself."

Khan said he had spoken to his brother-in-law in the week before the attack, but he gave no indication he was planning an attack.

In a twist of irony, "Farook" is a name which means "the one who chooses between wrong and right."