An Islamic State propaganda magazine praised the couple responsible for the San Bernardino terrorist attack as martyrs for killing 14 people, and suggested that the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 was inspired -- but not directed -- by the organization.
An essay that opens the most recent issue of the English-language magazine, Dabiq, said the assailants, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, answered the call to "terrorize crusaders in their very strongholds." Both were killed in a gun battle with police.
Dabiq, which also serves as a recruitment tool for Islamic State (also known as ISIS), emphasized that Malik was willing to carry out an attack, unlike many men. Her participation made the attack unique, the essay said.
"How much more deserving of Allah's blessing are a husband and wife who march out together to fight the crusaders in defense of the Khilafah!" the article said, using the Arabic term for caliphate, or a state established and guided by Islamic law.
The two attackers "did not suffice with embarking upon the noble path of jihad alone," the essay said. Farook was praised as a "noble brother" while Malik was referred to as "his blessed wife."
Images of San Bernardino after the attack and Farook's bullet-riddled body accompanied the article.
The killings were described as righteous in the magazine, which didn't mention that those shot were Farook's co-workers at the San Bernardino County Health Department who were attending a holiday party.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said the magazine "seems to confirm a previous ISIS radio report that these were inspired attacks, not coordinated by ISIS."
FBI officials have said that the couple acted on their own, not at the behest of another organization.
"This is part of [a] two-part strategy; ISIS would prefer to orchestrate massive attacks against the United States. But they are more than willing to praise an attack which they inspired that killed more than a dozen people," Levin said.
He noted that Islamic State uses a "very derogatory term" to describe non-Muslims who are victims of attacks.
"They are a death cult," Levin said.
The 56-page online magazine also praised the couple for putting aside their lives, including family members and other obligations.
"Not only did they leave behind their comfortable lifestyle, but prior to the operation they left their baby daughter in the care of others knowing that they likely wouldn't see her again in this life," the essay said.
A picture of the white crib in the couple's Redlands home was also included in the magazine's layout, along with a photo of a wounded man on a stretcher and law enforcement vehicles outside the Inland Regional Center, where the attack occurred.
After completing the attack, which left 22 people wounded, Malik reaffirmed her allegiance to the leader of Islamic State in an online post, the two-page essay said. Malik's pledge was posted online shortly before the couple was killed in the shootout with police.
The essay ended by expressing hope that the San Bernardino attack would "awaken" Muslims across the United States, Europe and Australia.
Levin said the article clearly asked potential homegrown violent terrorists to heed the call to carry out attacks.
The issue also confirmed that the masked militant nicknamed "Jihadi John," who appeared in several videos depicting the beheadings of Western hostages, was killed by a drone strike in Raqqah, Syria.
U.S. military officials had said in November that the Army was "reasonably certain" that the militant, identified as Mohammed Emwazi, was killed in a drone strike, the Associated Press reported.
Malik and Farook were killed by police several hours after the Dec. 2 shooting.
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