Syed Rizwan Farook

Syed Rizwan Farook was a U.S.-born domestic terrorist and a suspected ISIS sympathizer. On December 2, 2015, Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik carried out a shooting spree at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people.Eli Saslow and Setephanie McCrummen, “National ‘Where’s Syed?’: How the San Bernardino shooting unfolded,” Washington Post, December 3, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/wheres-syed-how-the-san-bernardino-shooting-unfolded/2015/12/03/2ee90128-9a15-11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html. During the attack, Malik pledged allegiance—on behalf of both herself and Farook—to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi via Facebook. The couple died in a shootout with law enforcement in the hours following the attack.Saeed Ahmed, “Who were Syed Rizwan Farookand Tashfeen Malik?,” CNN, December 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/us/syed-farook-tashfeen-malik-mass-shooting-profile/;
Pamela Engel, “Here’s the ISIS message the female San Bernardino shooter posted on Facebook during the attack,” Business Insider, December 17, 2015, www.businessinsider.com/isis-message-tashfeen-malik-posted-on-facebook-during-attack-2015-12.

According to U.S. officials, Farook self-radicalized online and listened to the lectures of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In August 2011, Farook informed his neighbor and friend Enrique Marquez of his interest in joining AQAP in Yemen, according to the FBI.“U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: U.S. v. Enrique Marquez, Jr.,” Department of Justice, December 17, 2015, 8, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/800606/download;
Lee Ferran and Brian Ross, “San Bernardino: Ghost of American al-Qaeda Haunts Another US Terror Plot,” ABC News, December 18, 2015, http://abcnews.go.com/International/san-bernardino-ghost-american-al-qaeda-haunts-us/story?id=35838795.
Farook may have also had some degree of online contact with members of the Somali al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab, as well as al-Qaeda’s former affiliate the Nusra Front, according to an unnamed federal investigator.“Everything we know about the San Bernardino terror attack investigation so far,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-san-bernardino-shooting-terror-investigation-htmlstory.html;
Chris Pleasance, Ashley Collman, and Snejana Farberov, “REVEALED: San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook ‘had contact with Syrian al Qaeda-affiliated group AND al Shabaab in Somalia’,” Daily Mail (London), December 4, 2015, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3346500/Pictured-handcuffed-body-San-Bernardino-terrorist-Pakistani-wife-pledged-allegiance-ISIS-Facebook-slaughter-14.html.

Farook was raised in California by Pakistani parents.Kate Shepherd, “San Bernardino Shooter Was Born In Chicago,” Chicagoist, December 3, 2015, http://chicagoist.com/2015/12/03/_the_san_bernardino_shooter.php. He adhered to traditional dress, and reportedly attended religious services twice daily at the Islamic Center of Riverside in Riverside, California.Adam Nagourney, Ian Lovett, Julie Turkewitz, and Benjamin Mueller, “Couple Kept Tight Lid on Plans for San Bernardino Shooting,” New York Times, December 3, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/us/san-bernardino-shooting-syed-rizwan-farook.html?_r=0. In 2010, Farook began working for the San Bernardino County Health Department.Saeed Ahmed, “Who were Syed Rizwan Farookand Tashfeen Malik?,” CNN, December 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/us/syed-farook-tashfeen-malik-mass-shooting-profile/.

In 2013, Farook met Malik, a Pakistani national, online. That same year, Farook met Malik in person in Saudi Arabia while on hajj.Greg Botelho, “San Bernardino shooting: Carnage was ‘unspeakable,’ police say,” CNN, December 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/us/san-bernardino-shooting/index.html. Later in 2013, according to then-FBI director James Comey, Farook and Malik discussed their “joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom” in private online messages. Malik was granted a U.S. fiancée visa in July 2014, and the two married one month later in California.Al Baker and Marc Santora, “San Bernardino Attackers Discussed Jihad in Private Messages, F.B.I. Says,” New York Times, December 16, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/12/17/us/san-bernardino-attackers-discussed-jihad-in-private-messages-fbi-says.html?_r=0.

Farook’s intention to carry out a domestic terror attack dates back to at least 2011, when he began plotting attacks alongside friend and neighbor Marquez. Farook discussed radical Islam with Marquez, and shared with him the teachings of AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.“U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: U.S. v. Enrique Marquez, Jr.,” Department of Justice, December 17, 2015, 4, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/800606/download. According to the FBI, the pair planned, trained, and purchased equipment—including firearms—and plotted to target Riverside Community College and the highway State Route 91.“U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: U.S. v. Enrique Marquez, Jr.,” Department of Justice, December 17, 2015, 3, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/800606/download. Farook and Marquez reportedly halted their plots in November 2012 after three men unaffiliated with Farook were arrested in Chino, California, on terror-related charges.Sarah Parvini, Kate Mather, James Queally, and Richard A. Serrano, “San Bernardino shooter used friend to dodge gun check, may have planned larger attack, sources say,” Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2015, www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-enrique-marquez-main-mother-speaks-20151210-story.html.

Farook soon renewed his efforts to conduct an attack. According to the FBI, Farook and Malik began plotting the December 2015 attack before Malik moved to the United States in mid-2014.Richard A. Serrano and Brian Bennet, “San Bernardino shooters began plotting attack before their marriage, FBI chief says,” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2015, www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-san-bernardino-shooters-preplanning-20151209-story.html.

On the morning of December 2, 2015, Farook and his wife entered the Inland Regional Center (IRC) in San Bernardino, where Farook’s employer was hosting a holiday party.Elizabeth Chuck, Tracy Connor, and Mark Schone, “San Bernardino Shooting: What Is the Inland Regional Center?,” NBC News, December 2, 2015, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/san-bernardino-shooting/san-bernardino-shooting-what-inland-regional-center-n473016. Roughly one hour into the event, Farook placed a concealed explosive device on a table and left the premises, though the device failed to detonate. Marquez later told investigators that Farook had constructed the device using instructions published in AQAP’s English-language magazine Inspire.“U.S. District Court for the Central District of California: U.S. v. Enrique Marquez, Jr.,” Department of Justice, December 17, 2015, 25-26, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/800606/download;
Richard A. Serrano, James Rufus Koren, Richard Winton, and Corina Knoll, “Online loan may have helped couple fund their terror arsenal in San Bernardino attack,” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2016, www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-san-bernardino-shooting-attackers-bomb-mainbar-20151208-story.html.

At 11 a.m., Farook and Malik returned to the IRC, dressed in tactical vests and black masks. In less than four minutes, the pair fired 65-75 rounds of bullets, killing 14 people and injuring 21 others.Eli Saslow and Setephanie McCrummen, “National ‘Where’s Syed?’: How the San Bernardino shooting unfolded,” Washington Post, December 3, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/wheres-syed-how-the-san-bernardino-shooting-unfolded/2015/12/03/2ee90128-9a15-11e5-8917-653b65c809eb_story.html. During the shooting spree, Malik pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—on behalf of both herself and Farook—via Facebook.Pamela Engel, “Here’s the ISIS message the female San Bernardino shooter posted on Facebook during the attack,” Business Insider, December 17, 2015, www.businessinsider.com/isis-message-tashfeen-malik-posted-on-facebook-during-attack-2015-12. Farook and Malik fled the scene of the shooting in an SUV, and were apprehended by police near their apartment in the nearby city of Redlands. The pair opened fire on police from their vehicle and were killed in the ensuing shootout.Greg Botelho, “San Bernardino shooting: Carnage was ‘unspeakable,’ police say,” CNN, December 4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/us/san-bernardino-shooting/index.html.

According to the FBI, two of the five firearms used by Farook and Malik in the San Bernardino attack were purchased by Enrique Marquez on separate occasions in late 2011 and early 2012.“Criminal Complaint: United States of America v. Enrique Marquez, Jr.,” United States District Court for the Central District of California, December 17, 2015, 3, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/800606/download. The day after the attack, Marquez told a 911 operator that he had given the guns to Farook for “safe storage.”Richard Winton, Richard A. Serrano, Joseph Serna, and Marisa Gerber, “After San Bernardino massacre, suspect Enrique Marquez Jr. made dramatic 911 call,” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-911-san-bernardino-massacre-20151218-story.html. The other firearms were legally purchased by Farook between 2007 and 2012.“Everything we know about the San Bernardino terror attack investigation so far,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-san-bernardino-shooting-terror-investigation-htmlstory.html. Police also found over 4,500 rounds of ammunition and additional bomb making materials at the couple’s home.“Everything we know about the San Bernardino terror attack investigation so far,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-san-bernardino-shooting-terror-investigation-htmlstory.html.

Following the attack, FBI investigators sought to gather evidence from Farook’s locked iPhone.Cecilia Kang and Eric Lichtblau, “F.B.I. Error Locked San Bernardino Attacker’s iPhone,” New York Times, March 1, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/technology/apple-and-fbi-face-off-before-house-judiciary-committee.html. In April 2016, FBI Director James Comey said that after paying to have the device unlocked, the FBI had found no evidence linking Farook and Malik to ISIS militants.Devlin Barrett, “FBI Paid More Than $1 Million to Hack San Bernardino iPhone,” New York Times, April 21, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/comey-fbi-paid-more-than-1-million-to-hack-san-bernardino-iphone-1461266641.

Return to Full Database

Take action:

Help Counter Extremism

Stay updated on the latest

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

View Archive

CEP on Twitter