No signs that San Bernardino shooter was radicalized, imam says

Agence France-Presse
Police officers conduct a manhunt after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. 

The imam at a mosque frequented by a California man who killed 14 people with his wife said Thursday there was no indication he had been radicalized, and had not been seen for about three weeks.

Others described Syed Farook, 28, as a committed Muslim who was quiet and respectful of others.

Farook and his 27-year-old wife Tashfeen Malik died in a shootout with police after a chase following the killings at a center for the disabled in San Bernardino, about an hour's drive east of Los Angeles.

Their motive remains unclear, but Mahmood Nadvi, of the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque in San Bernardino, said he did not believe they were Islamic extremists.

"We never saw a sign of radicalization," Nadvi, 39, told AFP a day after the bloodshed.

"If someone becomes nuts, you don't represent the religion anymore."

Nizaam Ali, 23, a student interviewed at the mosque, said Farook came frequently to the mosque — but had not been seen for the last three weeks.

"He used to come two to three times a week, usually at 1:00 p.m., during his lunch break," Ali told AFP. "We prayed with him."

He said Farook told fellow worshippers that he had sealed his union with Pakistan-born Malik "online" and the couple married in Saudi Arabia in July 2014.

"I saw her a couple of times, but never met her," he said of Malik. "She was covered from head to toe in black."

Gasser Shehata, 42, said he was convinced Farook's actions were linked to a work-related dispute — which is one line of police enquiry — rather than his religious beliefs.

"You can't believe he did that for the sake of Islam," he said. "He was calm, shy, reserved. I've never seen him disrespect someone."

Muslim officials in San Bernardino said a prayer vigil would be held at the local mosque later Thursday to honor the victims.

"We condemn this senseless and horrific act of violence in the strongest possible terms," said Ahsan Khan, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community chapter in Los Angeles.

"Our community has been in San Bernardino County for nearly three decades and yet have never seen such depravity."