California Muslims condemn ‘horrific’ mass shooting

The worst mass shooting to hit the United States in three years, the massacre drew an angry response from President Barack Obama, who once again urged Congress to pass tougher gun control measures to stem the spiral of violence.

Authorities prepare to search an area near a church on Wednesday, following a shooting that killed multiple people at a social services centre for the disabled in San Bernardino, California. James Quigg / The Victor Valley Daily Press via AP
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SAN BERNARDINO // California’s Muslim community expressed its horror on Wednesday at the mass shooting that killed at least 14 in San Bernardino, after a local Muslim man was identified as a suspect.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said police no longer believed a third suspect was at large: “We’re pretty comfortable that the two shooters that went into the building are the two shooters deceased on San Bernardino Avenue.”

“The first one is Syed, Rizwan, last name Farook. He is 28 years old. I am told that he is US-born,” Chief Burguan told a news conference. “The person that was with him is a female. Her name is Tashfeen, last name Malik. She is 27 years old.”

Chief Burguan said Farook was a county employee who has worked for five years as an environmental specialist in the public health department.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said its members “unequivocally condemn the horrific act that happened today”.

“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence,” he added in a statement.

Authorities have drawn no connection between the attack and radical Islam at this stage in the investigation.

The heavily armed shooters targeted a year-end party taking place at a social services building in San Bernardino, about an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles.

Police have been investigating reports the shooting might be linked to a disgruntled employee who left the party following a dispute.

Chief Burguan confirmed that Farook was present at the event.

“He did leave the party early under some circumstances that were described as angry or something of that nature.”

But the police chief said he did not believe this was a crime committed in the heat of the moment.

“Based upon what we have seen and based upon how they were equipped, there had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” he said.

“So I don’t think that he just ran home, put on these types of tactical clothes, grabbed guns and came back on a spur of the moment thing.”

Farook’s brother-in-law, Farhan Kahn, came forward at the press conference to voice his shock at the notion his brother could have committed mass murder.

“I have no idea why he would do that,” a visibly shaken Mr Khan told reporters, adding that he had last spoken with Farook about a week ago.

“I am in shock that something like this could happen,” said Mr Khan, who is married to Farook’s sister. “I am very sad that people lost their lives.

Farook's father, quoted by the New York Daily News tabloid, described his son as a devout Muslim.

“He was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.”

Muzammil Siddiqi, the religious director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, also condemned the killings saying they were contrary to the teachings of Islam.

“We have condemned all violence everywhere because human life is precious,” he said. “And we respect and honour human life.”

* Agence France-Presse