SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Investigators believe a terrorist recruiter who was convicted of plotting travel to the Middle East for multiple domestic militants three years ago was linked to one of the accused attackers in San Bernardino, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
The officials said Syed Rizwan Farook was linked to Sohiel Kabir — a suspected domestic terror recruiter who attempted to send four California men to Afghanistanin 2012 to join al Qaeda.
Kabir was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for the offenses. In the 2012 case, federal investigators looked at five men from Riverside, Calif., which is located about 15 miles southwest of San Bernardino.
Farook was not among those investigated at the time, KTLA-TV reported, but two U.S. law enforcement officials reportedly said that Farook knew Kabir.
It wasn’t initially clear how Farook might have known Kabir, but the anonymous officials said the men were in the same “social circle.”
Officials said Wednesday that Farook and an accomplice may have been plotting a different terror attack in 2012, but called it off as the result of the FBI’s Riverside investigation.
Farook and his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik, are accused of killing 14 people and wounding several more at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2 during a holiday party for employees. The pair were killed in a police shootout hours later following a high speed pursuit.
Investigators believe the couple were radicalized but they aren’t yet certain whether they developed jihadist intentions on their own or were motivated by external militant forces.
Authorities also searched a lake near San Bernardino Thursday, where they may have been searching for a missing computer hard drive that belonged to the couple.
It remains unclear whether the couple were known to any law enforcement agency, but some have suggested that they should have been.
“You have to say it was an intelligence failure. You have to. Because it was,” Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Az., said Thursday following a closed-door House briefing on the shooting.
By Doug G. Ware