Tashfeen Malik

Tashfeen Malik was a Pakistani citizen and Islamic extremist who, in December 2015, conducted a terror attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, alongside her husband Syed Rizwan Farook.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.“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.
During the attack, Malik pledged allegiance—on behalf of both herself and Farook—to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 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. The attack killed 14 people and wounded 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. According to family members, Malik was raised in a conservative family in Saudi Arabia, but was likely radicalized while living in Pakistan between 2007 and 2014.Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Exclusive: Investigators piece together portrait of Pakistani woman in shooting massacre,” Reuters, December 4, 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-california-shooting-pakistan-idUSKBN0TN1YX20151204.

Malik was born in Pakistan in 1986,Pat St. Claire, Greg Botelho, and Ralph Ellis, “San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik: Who was she?” CNN, December 8, 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/us/san-bernardino-shooter-tashfeen-malik/. but moved with her family to Saudi Arabia in 1990. Malik returned to Pakistan in 2007 to study pharmacology, and graduated in 2012. Relatives in Pakistan described Malik as devout. According to her aunt, Malik had “become a religious person, and she often [told] people to live according to the teachings of Islam.”F. Brinley Bruton, “Tashfeen Malik, Mom in California Rampage, Became Very Devout: Report,” NBC News, December 6, 2015, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/san-bernardino-shooting/tashfeen-malik-mom-california-rampage-became-very-devout-report-n475031. Pakistani media reported that Malik was affiliated with the Red Mosque in Islamabad, famously connected to the Taliban, though mosque officials deny they had any ties with Malik.F. Brinley Bruton, “Tashfeen Malik, Mom in California Rampage, Became Very Devout: Report,” NBC News, December 6, 2015, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/san-bernardino-shooting/tashfeen-malik-mom-california-rampage-became-very-devout-report-n475031. Malik’s Facebook account had also been previously removed from Facebook for promoting or praising “acts of terror,” according to an official at the company.Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Exclusive: Investigators piece together portrait of Pakistani woman in shooting massacre,” Reuters, December 4, 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-california-shooting-pakistan-idUSKBN0TN1YX20151204.

Between 2013 and 2014, Malik studied the Quran in Multan, Pakistan, at the al-Huda Institute, an Islamic school for women. She left before completing her program, telling administrators she was getting married.Pat St. Claire, Greg Botelho, and Ralph Ellis, “San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik: Who was she?” CNN, December 8, 2015, www.cnn.com/2015/12/06/us/san-bernardino-shooter-tashfeen-malik/. In a December 2015 interview, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani referred to the area of southern Punjab where Malik studied as an extremist “recruitment ground” and terrorist stronghold.Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Exclusive: Investigators piece together portrait of Pakistani woman in shooting massacre,” Reuters, December 4, 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-california-shooting-pakistan-idUSKBN0TN1YX20151204.

During her studies, Malik met Farook, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, on the Internet. In October of 2013, Malik and Farook met in person in Mecca while Farook was on hajj. FBI director James Comey later said that following their meeting in Saudi Arabia, Malik and Farook discussed their “joint commitment to jihad and to martyrdom” in private online messages.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. In July 2014, Malik was granted a fiancée visa and moved to the United States.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. The couple wed in Riverside, California, in August 2014, and Malik gave birth to a daughter in May 2015.Jodie Tillman and Imran Ghori, “From baby gifts to building pipe bombs: The motives of shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik remain a mystery,” Orange County Register, December 4, 2015, www.ocregister.com/articles/farook-694761-couple-health.html;
Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Exclusive: Investigators piece together portrait of Pakistani woman in shooting massacre,” Reuters, December 4, 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-california-shooting-pakistan-idUSKBN0TN1YX20151204.
The FBI estimates that the couple began planning the December 2015 attack before Malik came to the United States.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 Malik 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. Conspirator Enrique Marquez Jr. 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.

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