Washington: A young couple behind a mass shooting in California, who left 14 dead, had amassed a huge arsenal and carefully planned their attack, authorities said on Thursday, refusing to rule out terrorism.
The suspects – Syed Farook, 28, and his 27-year-old wife Tashfeen Malik – were killed in a shootout with police after Wednesday’s rampage at a holiday party in San Bernardino, about an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles.
Police revised upwards to 21 the number of people injured in the attack – the deadliest in the US since the 2012 massacre at a school in Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
President Barack Obama cautioned the motive for the attack was not yet known, but a terror attack could not be ruled out.
“At this stage, we do not yet know why the terrible event occurred,” said Obama, who has repeatedly called on the Republican-controlled Congress to pass tougher gun control measures.
“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know. It’s also possible that this was workplace-related,” the president said.
San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan said Farook and his wife had fired between 65 and 75 rounds during the attack at a social services centre that entailed “a degree of planning.”
Explosives rigged to a remote-controlled car were also found at the scene of the carnage, but the device failed to go off, he said.
He said 1,600 rounds of ammunition were found on the couple and in their car following the police shootout in which they died.
About 5,000 additional rounds, 12 pipe bomb-type explosive devices and bomb-making material were found at the home the couple shared.
“Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of elaborate scheme,” Burguan said, after indications that Farook had attended the party organised by the health department and left after an apparent dispute, only to return a short time later with Malik. “There was some planning that went into this.”
The FBI cautioned that it was “way too early” to speculate on the motive.
But media reports said Farook, who is US-born and worked for the local county as an environmental inspector, had met his Pakistani-born wife during a trip to Saudi Arabia in 2013 and had become radicalised.
Burguan said Farook had brought his wife back to the US in July of last year, and that both had had no brushes with the law.
Law enforcement officials said he had been in touch via social media and by phone with international terror subjects known to the FBI.
The couple, who dropped off their baby daughter with Farook’s mother shortly before the rampage, were dressed in black military-style gear and carried assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns as they burst into an auditorium rented out for the holiday party at Inland Regional Center.
Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, said he had no clue what prompted the carnage.
"I am in shock that something like this could happen,” a visibly shaken Khan said.