Washington, Dec 10: The Pakistani-origin couple involved in the California shooting last week were radicalised even before they met and got married and discussed jihad while dating online, the FBI has said.
"San Bernardino involved two killers who were radicalised for quite a long time before their attack," FBI Director James Comey told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during a Congressional hearing yesterday.
The two -- Pakistani national Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook -- were shot dead by the police in an exchange of fire hours after they killed 14 people and injured 17 others last week.
"Our investigation to date indicates that they were actually radicalised before they started courting or dating each other online. And as early as the end of 2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged and then married and lived together in the United States," Comey said.
According to investigators, the two first met on an online dating site, after which they married in Saudi Arabia. Thereafter Tashfeen came to the US on a K-1 visa to join Farooq.
"We also believe they were inspired by foreign terrorist organisations. We're working very hard to understand exactly their association and the source of their inspiration. We're also working very hard to understand whether there was anybody else involved with assisting them, with supporting them, with equipping them," Comey said.
Responding to a question, Comey said as of now there is no evidence that the marriage between Farook and Tashfeen was arranged by a terrorist operative or organisation.
"Do you agree with me that if it was arranged by a terrorist operative or organisation, that is a game changer?" Senator Lindsay Graham asked.
"It would be a very, very important thing to know. That's why we're working so hard to understand it," he said.
Comey said the ISIS is trying to motivate people already in the United States to become killers on their behalf.
"And they would very much like to -- they aspire to be the leader in the global jihad, send people here to conduct attacks. It's that second piece we have not seen yet," he said. The FBI is looking into reports that the shooters attempted to convert or did convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic version.