Authorities in Pakistan are investigating whether Tashfeen Malik, one of the attackers in a San Bernardino shooting, had ties to Islamic militant organizations amid reports that she had pledged allegiance to an Islamic State leader on Facebook, Pakistani intelligence sources said Friday.
Intelligence agents have questioned members of Malik’s extended family in the province of Punjab, an area that is considered one of the nurseries of Islamist militant organizations, according to Pakistani intelligence agents.
Malik, who with her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, killed 14 people in Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, was born in Pakistan but moved to Saudi Arabia with her family nearly 25 years ago, the sources said.
She received a U.S. visa while in Saudi Arabia, the sources said. She entered the U.S. on a K1 visa for fiances of American citizens.
The couple was killed by police in a gun battle hours after the attack on the Inland Regional Center.
Malik, 27, belonged to an educated, politically influential family from Karor Lal Esan in Layyah district. Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh, one of her father’s cousins, was a provincial minister from 2008-13.
Residents said the Aulakh family is known to have connections to militant Islam.
"The family has some extremist credentials, and some members of Malik's family in Karor are also involved in sectarian activities," Zahid Gishkori, 32, a resident of the Layyah district in the area who knows the family well, said in an interview.
Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh told the Los Angeles Times that he didn't know Tashfeen Malik, but did not reply when asked to confirm that her father was his cousin.
"I am busy in local body elections and don't want to talk on this issue," he said.
Residents of Karor Lal Esan said that Aulakh was indeed the cousin of Malik’s father.
"Malik Anwar Aulakh, the real paternal uncle of Tashfeen, is very close to Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh and everybody in the area knows that they are cousins. Ours is a rural area. Here, everybody knows who is who," said a resident of Karor Lal Esan who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The family was said to follow the Barelvi version of Sunni Islam, which is considered more into spiritualism than militancy. But sources said it was likely that she had converted to the Salafi/Wahabi version of Islam after spending most of her life in Saudi Arabia.
Malik’s birthplace is in southern Pakistan, some 275 miles from Islamabad, the nation’s capital. The heavily agricultural region has a large number of religious seminaries.
Sahi reported from Islamabad. A special correspondent in Karor also contributed to this report.
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