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San Bernardino Shooting Classified as Terrorism, But Expert Sees Unusual Profile


SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 03: Jasmine Paladin cries as she attends a vigil at the San Manuel Stadium to remember those injured and killed during the shooting at the Inland Regional Center were killed on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured on December 2nd. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

John Burger - published on 12/04/15 - updated on 06/08/17

DePaul University professor says incident shows terrorism is "constantly evolving"

The FBI has formally designated Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., an act of terrorism.

“As of today, based on the information and facts as we know them,” the bureau is investigating this “as an act of terrorism,” David Bowdich of the FBI in Los Angeles said at a news conference. The agency will be taking over the investigation from local officials, the New York Times reported.

This development came after revelations that Tashfeen Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook posting. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, carried out Wednesday’s attack, which left 14 people dead and 21 wounded. The two were killed in a shootout with police, leaving behind a six-month-old baby that they had dropped off with Farook’s mother that morning.

Investigators were also left with several obstacles to explaining a motive for the shooting, one of which was the unusual profile of the attackers.

“Most attackers are young men in their twenties. Women with a personal grievance as well as an ideological agenda have sometimes volunteered to be suicide bombers, a mother, rarely if ever,” Thomas R. Mockaitis, professor of history at DePaul University, opined on his blog, International Security. “A couple with a baby to care for has never, to the best of my knowledge, carried out such an attack.”

Mockaitis, who has written extensively on terrorism, noted that the body count in the San Bernardino incident was actually low, considering the amount of firepower and ammunition Farook and Malik had amassed. “Had creating a mass-casualty incident been their only motive, they could have chosen a higher valuable [sic], vulnerable target,” he wrote. “None of their homemade bombs worked, suggesting that they had not received professional guidance in how to make them. Instead of fleeing the scene expeditiously or moving on to another target, they hung around the area and were killed in a shootout with police.”

The shooting took place at the Inland Regional Center, where Farook was employed, and where he apparently had gotten into a dispute at a holiday party that morning. Mockaitis suggested that both workplace anger and terrorism may have been involved.

“The couple appears to have been planning some kind of attack,” he said. “Farook’s angry outburst at the holiday party may have led them to advance their timetable and refocus on his workplace as a target. Such a scenario would explain why the attack was carried out so poorly.” He wrote:

If radical Islam motivated Farook and Malik, they do not appear to have gotten much help from ISIS or any other organization, judging by how badly the two would-be terrorists performed. They may have self-radicalized and decided to strike a blow for the cause. That would make them fellow travelers rather than sophisticated extremists…. The attacks also remind us that terrorism is constantly evolving.

Yes, their motives may have been mixed, said Thomas Jocelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in an interview with The Weekly Standard, “But the bottom line is, these were people who were stockpiling ammunition, pipe bombs,…That doesn’t make it less of a terrorist act.”

Mockaitis also makes a case for stricter regulation of guns. He points out that all the attacks of the past several years “were perpetrated by individuals with almost unfettered access to virtually any kind of firearm and as much ammunition as they wanted.”

“Over the past decade 280,000 Americans have died at the hands of other Americans wielding guns, far more than have been killed by terrorist attacks, including 9/11. That statistic should frighten people more than any of the recent incidents. There will always be unstable co-workers, angry members of hate groups and terrorists (foreign and domestic) who want to kill us. Let’s not make it so easy for them,” writes Mockaitis.

David Warren, a columnist at The Catholic Thing, however, mused that, “Perhaps the most useful public policy, in light of the latest ‘homegrown’ Muslim terror hit, in San Bernardino or wherever, would be to offer free police firearms training to a large civilian constabulary.”

Islamist MilitantsTerrorism
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