Terrorist Attack Analysis- The San Bernardino Terror Attack

The San Bernardino terror attack constituted of a mass shooting and attempted bombing carried out on December 2, 2015.The attack that caused the deaths of 14 people and serious injuries of 22 people targeted a public health training event and a Christmas party of about 80 people in a rented banquet room at the Inland Regional center in San Bernardino, California.

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The terrorist act was carried out by a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, with Farook being an American-born citizen of Pakistani descent working as a health department employee and Malik being born in Pakistan but having permanent residency in the United States. The couple fled in a rented vehicle but were pursued by the police and killed in a shootout.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) subsequently opened an investigation the following day and President Barack Obama defined the attack as an act of terrorism on December 6, 2015. The FBI investigation showed the perpetrators as “homegrown violent extremists” that were inspired by foreign terrorist groups though they were not part of the groups (terrorist cell or network) nor were they directed by the groups. The couple had become radicalized through the internet for several years prior to the attack, expressing commitment to jihadism and martyrdom in private messages to each other before their engagement. They had also traveled to Saudi Arabia and had stockpiled weapons, ammunition and bomb-making equipment at their home. They had also practiced shooting and had made contingency plans for their baby and Farook’s mother upon their imminent death.

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The only person connected to the attackers as an accomplice was Farook’s friend and a former neighbor, Enrique Marquez Jr who bought two rifles used in the terror attack. Marquez was charged with the federal counts of conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, making a false statement to acquire firearms and immigration fraud. According to the federal prosecutors, Farook and Marquez had conspired to carry out shooting and bombing attacks in 2011 but had abandoned the plans. Further charges have since being included in Marquez’s case and his trial will commnence on September 26, 2017. Following the investigations, Farook’s brother, sister-in-law and a third person were also later arrested on immigration fraud charges.

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The attackers can be classified as crusaders, being as it is they were sympathetic and empathetic with terrorist groups. Neither of the attackers had a criminal record nor were they on the Terrorist Screening Database lists. They could also not be described as crazy since their actions were clearly well-planned and premeditated. Their reaction to the pursuit and eventual shooting down by the police also depict people with full mental capabilities. Their crusading made them commit to jihadism and martyrdom in correspondence between themselves, stockpiling of weapons and the “pilgrim” to Saudi Arabia. Facebook posts for both attackers made during the attack pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL. Notably, the couple’s radicalization had started before formation of ISIL. And then there were poorly constructed pipe bombs left by Farook in a bag in the banquet room which were similar to schematics published in Inspire, an Al Qaeda magazine. FBI deemed the trigger to the attack as the forced participation of Farook in the public health training event and the Christmas party, participation that was much opposed by Malik in online correspondence unearthed later.

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