ISLAMABAD, A portrait has slowly emerged of the female shooter in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack as a young woman who went from being a modern girl to devoutly religious to extremist.
California law enforcement officials say Tashfeen Malik, 29, along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, killed 14 people and injured 21 on Wednesday in a shooting spree now being considered an act of terrorism.
Malik was born in Pakistan to an educated and powerful political family, including a cousin of her father who was once a government minister. One friend of the family said the cousin’s family had extremist connections.
Her paternal aunt, Hafza Batool told the BBC Malik’s actions have left the family stunned and shamed, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
“She was so modern. I do not know what had happened to her. She brought a bad name to our family,” Batool said.
Malik’s family moved to Saudi Arabia when she was a child. She often returned to the Punjab region of Pakistan for family visits and eventually, in 2007, returned to go to Bahauddin Zakariya University for pharmacology, where she was said to be a good student. The university is located in Multan, an area known for jihadist activity.
And it was in college Malik’s behavior changed.
“She started taking part in religious activities and also started asking women in the family and the locality to become good Muslims,” a family member said told the Los Angeles Times.
“She used to talk to somebody in Arabic at night on the Internet,” the family member said. The family speaks Urdu and a Punjabi dialect called Saraiki, and because of that, “we do not know what she used to discuss.”
She met Farook online and the couple married in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest city, last year. Malik passed a background check by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and was given a green card. Though many attended the ceremony they had when they returned to California, Malik’s face was mostly veiled, and she spoke to few people.
The couple had a baby girl in May, who Farook’s sister is hoping to adopt.
Malik allegedly posted her allegiance to the Isis on the day of the attack, but the family’s lawyers are unsure it was Malik who posted it and Facebook removed it shortly after the attack.
By Shawn Price