California shooter may have considered an attack in 2011 - source

Syed Rizwan Farook is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the FBI on Dec 4, 2015
Syed Rizwan Farook is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the FBI on Dec 4, 2015PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS/BLOOMBERG) - Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif, last week may have contemplated an attack on a UStarget as early as 2011 or 2012, a US government source familiar with the investigation said on Wednesday.

Investigators are also looking into whether Farook had asked his neighbour, Enrique Marquez, to purchase guns on his behalf in 2011 and 2012 to avoid calling attention to himself, the source said.

The source said the probe is also examining whether there were irregularities in how Farook's wife and co-shooter Tashfeen Malik obtained her visa to enter the United States as his fiancee.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley alluded to potential problems with her visa at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

"Our government apparently didn't catch the false address in Pakistan that she listed on her application,"Grassley said.

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the Farook and Malik may have become radicalised and discussed martyrdom at least two years ago,

The couple discussed jihad and martyrdom in online communications as early as late 2013, well before they were engaged and married, he said said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Farook, 28, and Malik, 27, killed 14 and wounded 21 in an attack on a Dec 2 holiday party for county workers in the Los Angeles suburb. Farook had been employed by San Bernardino County for five years, most recently as an environmental specialist, and had worked with some of the victims. He and Malik opened fire on the crowd with semi- automatic rifles and handguns. They were later killed in a gun battle with police.

In the moments before the attack, Malik posted on Facebook a pledge of allegiance to the leader of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), and FBI officials have said they suspected the couple had been inspired by ISIS or other terror groups.

So far, Comey said, FBI agents have not uncovered any direct ties between Farook and Malik and any terror groups, including ISIS, which predominantly operates in Syria and Iraq. Comey and other law enforcement officials have said that it did not appear the couple were part of a cell or had been directed to act.

"We believe they were inspired by foreign terrorist organisations," Comey said. "We are working very hard to understand their association and the source of their inspiration. We are working very hard to understand if anyone else was involved with assisting them, supporting them or equipping them."