California shooters radicalised for quite some time: FBI

An image obtained from the US Customs and Border Protection shows Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik going through customs in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on July 27, 2014.
An image obtained from the US Customs and Border Protection shows Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik going through customs in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on July 27, 2014.PHOTO: AFP
FBI's David Bowdich at a news conference on the shooting in San Bernardino, California.
FBI's David Bowdich at a news conference on the shooting in San Bernardino, California. PHOTO: REUTERS
Officials put up police tape in front of the builiding at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California.
Officials put up police tape in front of the builiding at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. PHOTO: AFP
Teresa Calvillo hangs a card on a cross at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California.
Teresa Calvillo hangs a card on a cross at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California. PHOTO: AFP
The deceased are remembered with their pictures placed within a wreath at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California.
The deceased are remembered with their pictures placed within a wreath at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California. PHOTO: AFP
Flags fly at half-staff outside San Bernardino City Hall following the shootings.
Flags fly at half-staff outside San Bernardino City Hall following the shootings. PHOTO: REUTERS
People pay their respects at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California.
People pay their respects at a makeshift shrine near the scene of the shootings in San Bernardino, California.PHOTO: AFP
People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial following the shootings.
People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial following the shootings. PHOTO: REUTERS
Monks with the Khmer Buddhist Society of San Bernardino pray at a makeshift memorial in San Bernardino, California.
Monks with the Khmer Buddhist Society of San Bernardino pray at a makeshift memorial in San Bernardino, California.PHOTO: REUTERS
FBI agents investigate the scene in the building at the Inland Regional Center were 14 people were killed.
FBI agents investigate the scene in the building at the Inland Regional Center were 14 people were killed. PHOTO: AFP

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA (AFP) - The couple behind the shooting in California that left 14 people dead had been radicalised for "quite some time" and both went for target practice before the massacre, apparently using their six-month-old baby as a "prop" to make themselves look like a happy American family, the authorities said on Monday (Dec 7).

The update from the FBI on the terror probe into the Dec 2 rampage in San Bernardino came after President Barack Obama vowed to destroy the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) group and hunt down its followers, in an address to a jittery nation.

ISIS has praised the California attackers - husband and wife Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik - as "soldiers" of its self-proclaimed caliphate, while stopping short of claiming outright credit for the carnage.

"As the investigation has progressed, we have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalised and have been for quite some time," Mr David Bowdich, the FBI's assistant director in Los Angeles, told reporters on Monday.

"The question for us is how and by whom and where were they radicalised?" he said. "Maybe there's not a by whom. Often times it's on the Internet."

He said the couple, who were killed in a shootout with police following the gun attack on a year-end office party, went for target practice in ranges around the Los Angeles area, including in the days before the tragedy.

On Sunday, Mr Obama said the attack was an "act of terrorism", and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating it as such. The authorities have, however, said there is no indication the couple were part of an organised larger group or cell.

In addition to two rifles and two handguns used in the attack at the party organised by Farook's employer - the San Bernardino County health department - investigators found an impressive arsenal at their home that included at least 19 pipe bombs apparently intended to be detonated to kill first responders.

"The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy (ISIS) and any other organisation that tries to harm us," Mr Obama said on Sunday in only his third address from the Oval Office since taking office in 2009.

He said the pair "had gone down the dark path of radicalisation". Farook, an American citizen, and his Pakistani wife met on an online dating site. Last year, he travelled to Saudi Arabia, where she lived, and they married.

On Monday, ABC News was the first to broadcast a snapshot of the couple taken by immigration as they entered the United States as newlyweds in July 2014. It shows them both dressed in traditional Muslim clothing.

Malik is wearing a black hijab that covers her head, and Farook is seen in a white tunic and skullcap.

Farook's family have said they were at a loss to explain the couple's rampage and have added that though both were devout Muslims, there was no indication they had become radicalised.

The killings have also baffled neighbours of the couple, who had a six-month-old daughter.

Farook's co-workers also were dumbfounded. They said he had attended the holiday party and then left, only to return with his wife, both dressed in black military-style clothing and heavily armed.

In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, however, Farook's father said his son approved of the ideas of the ISIS group and was fixated on Israel.

"He said he agreed with (ISIS chief Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi's ideas for creating the Islamic State, and he was obsessed by Israel," La Stampa quoted the father of the shooter, also named Syed Farook, as saying.

"I always used to say to him, 'Be calm, patience, in two years' time Israel will no longer exist'," he said, in remarks reported in Italian.