An interesting bit of information from the ongoing investigation into the backgrounds of San Bernardino jihadis Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik comes from Reuters, which was told by U.S. government sources that Malik “tried in vain to contact multiple Islamic militant groups in the months before she and Farook staged their attack, but her overtures were ignored” because the terrorists were concerned she might be a government informant.
As Reuters notes, Islamist terrorist organizations are shy about opening communications with people they do not know, fearing they will be lured into a sting operation. In Malik’s case, investigators said one of the groups she sought out was almost certainly the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Sources for the Los Angeles Times also cited the Nusra Front as a group Syed Farook had contact with.
The L.A. Times suggests Malik had extremist connections through her family in Pakistan:
Pakistani intelligence agents say they have questioned members of Malik’s extended family in the Pakistani province of Punjab, an area that is considered a stronghold of Islamic militant organizations.
Malik belonged to an educated, politically influential family from Karor Lal Esan in Layyah district. Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh, one of her father’s cousins, was once a provincial minister. Residents said the Aulakh family is known to have connections to militant Islam.
“The family has some extremist credentials,” said Zahid Gishkori, 32, a resident of the Layyah district in the area who knows the family well.
The couple’s family in the United States insists they never discussed ISIS or terrorism. Attorney Mohammad Abuershaid told the L.A. Times the Farook family did not know Malik very well, because she had not been married to Syed Farook for very long.
Another connection of interest to investigators, according to Reuters, is that Farook belonged to the “social circle” of Sohiel Omar Kabir, the Afghan-born ringleader of a group convicted last year of providing support to al-Qaeda, including plotting to attack American military forces in Afghanistan.
Reuters reports there is “little, if any, evidence that Malik or her husband had any direct contact with Islamic State” before swearing allegiance to them as they carried out their terrorist attack.
The murderous couple took steps to erase their “digital footprint,” probably fearing the authorities would track down the militants they had contact with, but they apparently did not do a thorough job, as the authorities are working on reconstructing data from their computers.
“We are spending a tremendous amount of time, as you might imagine, over the last 48 hours trying to understand the motives of these killers and trying to understand every detail of their lives,” said FBI director James Comey. “We know that this is very unsettling for the people of the United States. What we hope you will do is not let fear become disabling, but to instead channel it into an awareness of your surroundings.”