Only a vague sketch of Maliks background has emerged as investigators struggle to discover why she and her husband became radicalised

As law enforcement officials begin to piece together what led two California residents to shoot and kill 14 people at a social services centre in San Bernardino, the personal history of the one of the killers remained largely unknown: that of Tashfeen Malik, a 29 -year-old Pakistani woman described as a shy housewife.

Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, left their six-month-old daughter with Farooks mother on Wednesday morning before going to the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. There, the couple opened fire on a health department meeting, killing 14 and allegedly perpetrating the worst mass shooting since 26 were killed in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

The couple were killed four hours later and two miles back in a gun battle with police. The FBI said on Friday it is beginning to investigate the incident as an an act of terrorism after it seems Malik pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a now-removed Facebook post. There is no proof the group helped plan the two attacks.

Local mosque leaders described Farook, who worked for the San Bernardino County department of public health, as a religious man who was shy, enjoyed working on autoes, and appeared to be putting roots down in San Bernardino. Some reports indicated he became more withdrawn after meeting and marrying Malik, who was noticeable in the community largely by how little people knew about her. She, too, did not raise any obvious red flag, however.

Criminal profilers contacted by the Guardian said the veneer of normality was a key component of the couples plan to build an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and home-made tube bombs and to be implemented by the killed, because it minimised the risk of discovery.

But the profilers said that it was highly unusual for a woman and especially a new mother to engage in a kind of visceral, predatory violence that the clinical literature associates almost exclusively with men.

This combo photo shows the two suspects in the mass shooting in San Bernardino. Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

This is not a woman who has your typical maternal instincts, Mary Ellen OToole, a former top behaivoural analyst for the FBI who now directs the forensic science program at George Mason university, told the Guardian.

This is very schemed, strategic behavior, she said. They have this newborn, and what makes a family more normal or traditional than to have a baby? Yet they maintained a plan for mission-oriented, cold-blooded, maximum violence for weeks or months. It indicates the possibility that the baby was in part a prop to help them look normal.

Park Dietz, who has been profiling mass killers for more than 30 years, said he was unaware of any case of a couple erupting in mass violence when the targeted victims were not family members or people perceived to have harmed their child. The necessary ingredients for an attack of this kind are to be willing to die that day and an inclination to blame other people, either out of paranoia or a direct grievance, he said.

The mystery surrounding Malik extends to her background in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, of which merely a vague sketch has now come illuminate. It is not known when she became radicalised, who, if someone, radicalised her, and whether she described Farook into the deadly scheme or vice versa

The FBI has indicated that she and Farook probably self-radicalised online, but even that process invites more questions than answers.

San Bernardino being investigated as an act of terrorism, tells FBI

According to Reuters, Malik moved to Saudi Arabia with her father at a young age and lived there until 2007, cut off from the rest of her parents family after an inheritance dispute.

We feel a lot of sadness but we also feel ashamed that someone from our household has done this, Maliks uncle Javed Rabbani, a provincial education department clerk from central Punjab, told Reuters. We cant even imagine doing something like this. This is a mindset that is alien to us.

Maliks step-aunt could only offer vague impressions about what had become of her niece after she and her father moved.

From what we heard, they lived differently, their mindset is different. We are from a land of Sufi saints … this is very shocking for us, school teacher Hifza Bibi, the step-sister of Maliks father, who also lives in Karor Lal Esan told Reuters.

Our brother … went to Saudi and since then he doesnt care about anyone here, Bibi told. A human who didnt come to attend his own mothers funeral, what can you expect from him?

Malik is believed to have returned to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia in 2007 to attend pharmacology school at Bahauddin Zakariya university. She lived there at the university hostel until 2012, and was described as an introverted student without radical views.

She was known to be good student with no religion extremist tendencies, an intelligence official are stationed in the nearby township of Layyah told Reuters.

Syed Nisar Hussain Shah, one of Maliks professors in the pharmacy department, said she was a diligent student and one of the small minority of women who wore a veil. She remained always in a veil and she was not mixing with other students; she was shy, he said.

Pakistani media reported Malik had links to the Red mosque in Islamabad. The notorious mosque that was the scene of a bloody firearm battle with the army in 2007 has denied claims Malik went there. Mullah Qadir, the personal assistant to mosque leader Abdul Aziz, said there was no truth in the claim. Last year female students at the mosque created a video in which they pledge allegiance to Isis.

Malik and Farook reportedly met in 2013 on hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime. They got married shortly after, and Malik entered the US on a K-1 visa, provided for spouses of American citizens.

Mustafa Kuko, the Riverside Islamic Center director, told the Guardian that although he hosted the couples marriage celebration dinner at a mosque in Riverside and often talked with Farook, he had at most exchanged a few pleasantries with Malik.

Kuko said Farook asked for blessings for the matrimony in the midst of 2013, but his understanding was that the couple married in Saudi Arabia, where she lived after moving from her native Pakistan. The festivity dinner in Riverside was attended by 250 -3 00 people who ate traditional Pakistani dishes.

It was a very joyous occasion,[ Farook] was very much pleased, he looked relaxed, comfortable and happy. We didnt infer anything about him that was abnormal at that time, Kuko said.

Malik visited Pakistan again in 2013 and 2014, security officials told Reuters, but it is unclear who she fulfilled or where she visited.

Malik was not well known in the local Muslim community, local leaders have said. Ive truly never seen her, I dont know what she looked like, Khaled Zaidan of the Islamic Community Center of Redlands told the Guardian. Farook occasionally adored there after moving to the region in 2014. From my communication with our members , no one knew who she was.

Riaz Baqai and Mohammad Hossain, officials at a Redlands mosque a two-minute drive from the suspects home, also said they did not know them and were unaware of anyone who did.

Doyle Miller, the landlord of the house in Redlands where the couple apparently lived with their six-month old newborn and Farooks mother, who looked after the child during the day, told the Guardian they seemed like a very normal young couple.

Farook attended the Riverside mosque between 2012 and 2014. He was a regular worshipper, he used to come on a daily basis, Kuko told.

Farook would sometimes arrive as early as 4:30 am, and returned for evening prayers after run, after 7pm. He went on Fridays, his day off from his task as a environmental health inspector, which hed held since around 2010. He never mentioned any problems at work.

The FBI acknowledges knowing little about Tashfeen Malik. Those who attended the mosque with her husband, said they know virtually nothing of her, Associated Press reported. Even Farooks mother, who lived with the couple and their six-month-old daughter, knows very little, according to attorneys for Farooks family.

The Farook family lawyers described the 29 -year-old as merely a homemaker who was quiet like her husband and strictly followed Muslim customs. She wore traditional clothing that encompassed her face so her male relatives didnt even know what she looked like, the AP reported.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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