San Bernardino attack

Killer's two sisters left anguished

Mourners praying at the site of last Wednesday's shooting in California that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.
Mourners praying at the site of last Wednesday's shooting in California that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They are also baffled, saying Farook had seemed happy with his wife and their baby

RIVERSIDE (California) • They sat in the kitchen of a modest home in Riverside county last Friday night - two sisters reeling over an event that has devastated this community and, by the sisters' account, their family. Two of their children watched cartoons in the next room as a lawyer sat by their side.

For nearly an hour, Ms Saira Khan and Ms Eba Farook, the two sisters of Syed Rizwan Farook, the man involved in the mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino, expressed anguish at the tragedy that has engulfed this community.

But they said they had seen no warning that Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were preparing for an assault that would leave 14 people dead and 21 injured. "It's the very opposite of what we were taught," Ms Farook said.

The US authorities say the couple had assembled an arsenal of weapons and bombs in the house that they shared with Farook's mother, where they found 12 completed pipe bombs and a stockpile of thousands of rounds of ammunition. The presence of these weapons, they say, could indicate that the couple were planning more attacks.

The mother was interviewed for nine hours by the authorities about the attack. But the sisters are baffled by what had happened. Their brother had seemed happy with his wife and six-month-old baby, they said.

Asked if she felt shame, Ms Farook said: "I am not ashamed to be Muslim. I am not ashamed to be American either, and I am not ashamed to be Pakistani either. I think shame is for people who feel guilty about something." The sisters said they had stopped watching the news.

"It's harder for us to understand, especially knowing that he was our brother and he was so happy with her," said Ms Khan, referring to Malik. "How can he leave his only child, you know? And how could the mother do this?"

The lawyer, from the Council of Islamic Relations, helped arrange the interview with the New York Times, but is not representing the family. The children - a two-year- old girl and a seven-year-old boy - are Ms Khan's.

Ms Farook, 24, said she had watched the tragedy unfold on television in fear, knowing that her brother worked for the health department and was part of a day- long gathering at the Inland Regional Centre, where the attack took place. "We were just scared - we thought maybe they were hurt or were victims," she said.

Ms Khan said she and her husband intend to adopt the couple's six-month-old daughter, whom they left with Mr Farook's mother before embarking on the rampage. Police have said that the child was taken into custody by the federal authorities working with the county's child protective services and that there would be a hearing on the issue of temporary custody.

Ms Khan was dressed in long pants and a silky patterned blouse, her head fully covered by a green head scarf. Dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans, Ms Farook wore no head covering; her long curly hair hung to her shoulders.

The sisters described Farook as quiet and religious. "We're trying to be helpful with the investigation. People want answers and we do as well," Ms Farook said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Killer's two sisters left anguished'. Print Edition | Subscribe