14 killed in US gun rampage, 2 suspects shot dead
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA
A COUPLE armed with assault-style rifles opened fire at a party of the man's co-workers in southern California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 others, and were slain hours later in a shoot-out with police after a manhunt, the authorities said.
The two suspects were identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who San Bernardino city's police chief Jarrod Burguan said were in a relationship, possibly married or engaged. They were also said to have a six-month-old baby.
Farook was United States-born and had been employed by San Bernardino county for five years, most recently as a environmental specialist, while Malik's nationality was still undetermined.
While the motive of Wednesday's rampage remained unclear, chief Burguan said: "We have not ruled out terrorism."
Reuters quoted David Bowdich, an assistant regional Federal Bureau of Investigation director, as saying this might or might not be a terrorist act.
Other officials said the FBI was looking into a possible connection between Farook and at least one person who was investigated for terrorism a few years ago, The New York Times reported.
Police said they did not know if Farook had a criminal record or whether he was the subject of any workplace disciplinary action.
According to chief Barguan, Farook was attending the party, held in a building on the campus of the Inland Regional Centre - a social-services agency - with his colleagues when he suddenly stormed out.
He then returned with Malik at about 11am local time with .223-calibre assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns to fire on the celebration.
The couple, who were dressed in assault-style clothing, also placed several bombs at various locations, which police detonated.
They fled the scene in a dark sport utility vehicle and were later killed by police in a daytime gun battle in a residential neighbourhood nearby, Bloomberg quoted chief Burguan as saying.
"Based on what we have seen, based on how they were equipped, there had to have been some sort of planning," chief Burguan said.
The rampage appeared to differ from other recent US killing sprees in several ways, including the involvement of two people rather than a lone perpetrator.
At a news conference called by the Los Angeles area chapter of the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations, the brother-in-law of Farook, Farhan Khan, said he was bewildered by the news.
San Bernardino, located about 100km east of Los Angeles, is a largely working-class city of more than 200,000 people that has struggled financially after it filed for bankruptcy three years ago.
Following the shooting, President Barack Obama repeated his call for Congress to pass "common-sense gun-safety laws", including tougher background checks for firearm sales.
In a year repeatedly marked by such massacres, San Bernardino joined a tragic roster in US that includes Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; and Colorado Springs, where just five days earlier a gunman killed three people and wounded nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic.