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FBI Chief: California Shooters Radicalized Long Before Attack

  • Mike Richman

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The husband and wife died on Dec. 2, 2015, in a gun battle with authorities several hours after their assault on a gathering of Farook's colleagues in San Bernardino, Calif.

This July 27, 2014 photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Tashfeen Malik, left, and Syed Farook, as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. The husband and wife died on Dec. 2, 2015, in a gun battle with authorities several hours after their assault on a gathering of Farook's colleagues in San Bernardino, Calif.

The head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says the two shooters in last week's California massacre were radicalized before they met online and started discussing jihad and martyrdom about two years ago.

The head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says the two shooters in last week's California massacre were radicalized before they met online and started discussing jihad and martyrdom about two years ago.

FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were radicalized "for quite a long time" before carrying the attack in San Bernardino, California.

The couple married last year.

Meanwhile, several news organizations reported late Wednesday that law enforcement officials said that an associate of Farook’s told investigators a 2012 attack in the U.S. was planned but later abandoned.

Enrique Marquez, Farook’s one-time neighbor, purchased the rifles used in last week's attacks. According to unnamed officials, Marquez said he and Farook plotted an attack in California three years ago but eventually dropped the idea.

A police officer picks up a weapon from the scene of the investigation around the area of the SUV vehicle where two suspects were shot by police following a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Dec. 3, 2015.

A police officer picks up a weapon from the scene of the investigation around the area of the SUV vehicle where two suspects were shot by police following a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Dec. 3, 2015.

Homegrown extremists

In his testimony Comey also said the couple who carried out last week’s attack was inspired by foreign terrorist groups. He described the couple as "homegrown violent extremists."

"We’re working very hard to understand exactly their association and the source of their inspiration," Comey said. "We’re also working very hard to understand whether there was anybody else involved with assisting them, with supporting them, with equipping them, and we’re working very, very hard to understand did they have other plans, either for that day or earlier, and that work continues."

Comey said he was limited in what he could tell the committee because the investigation was continuing.

The FBI is looking into the attack as an act of terrorism, but there are no signs that the U.S.-born Farook and Malik, who was Pakistani, were part of a terror cell or group.

Last Wednesday, Farook and Malik killed 14 people and wounded 21 during a gathering of local government workers at a regional center in San Bernardino, California, east of Los Angeles.

They fled in a car and were gunned down in a shootout with police in a nearby residential neighborhood.

Malik had pledged allegiance to an Islamic State militant leader in a Facebook post, and Farook had contact with individuals linked to terror groups.

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