Though not much is known about Tashfeen Malik’s life, the people around the woman saw her start to dress more conservatively and urge people to live a more devout life in the final few years before Wednesday’s massacre in a Southern California office building.
One of Malik’s aunts told the Associated Press Saturday that Malik’s growing religious focus was one of the last things she heard about before the relative learned that Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook donned black masks, carried assault rifles and killed 14 people in a rampage in San Bernardino.
"I recently heard it from relatives that she has become a religious person, and she often tells people to live according to the teachings of Islam," recalled aunt Hifza Batool.
Batool spoke in Malik’s old Pakistan hometown of Karor Lal Esan, 280 miles southwest of Islamabad.
Another family member, who asked not to be identified, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times Malik’s Facebook postings were concerning. She said after Malik started college, she began to urge her family to become “good Muslims.”
The relative told the newspaper Malik used to talk to someone in Arabic on the Internet. The relative said the family doesn’t speak Arabic, rather Urdu and another Punjabi dialect instead.
The path from Malik’s life in Pakistan to the bloody events of this past week, when she and her husband slaughtered people gathered for a holiday work party, still remains a mystery. FBI officials, family lawyers and others said they know little about the housewife and mother. However, it was reported Friday that Malik pledged her allegiance to the Islamic State on Facebook the morning of the attack.
Malik and Farook were killed in a gun battle with police, miles away from where the attack took place. The FBI announced Friday it is investigating the shooting as an “act of terrorism.”
U.S. officials said that Farook has been in contact with extremists via social media. One official said those contacts were not recent and didn’t involve any significant players on FBI’s radar.
Farook was born in Chicago to Pakistani parents and raised in Southern California. Malik arrived in the U.S. in 2014 on a Pakistani passport and a fiancee visa but had spent extended periods of time in Saudi Arabia.
She started studying pharmacy at Bahauddin Zakariya University in the Pakistani city of Multan in 2012.
A maid who worked in the Multan home where Malik lived said that Malik initially wore a scarf that covered her head but not her face.
A year before she got married, she began wearing a scarf that covered all but her nose and eyes, the maid said. The maid spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing her employment with the family.
Dr. Nisar Hussain, a professor in the pharmacology department at Bahauddin Zakariya University, told the Los Angeles Times that she was veiled when attending the school.
“She was religious, but a very normal person as well. She was a very hardworking and submissive student. She never created any problem in the class. She was an obedient girl. I cannot even imagine how she could murder people,” he said in an interview with the Times.
President Barack Obama plans to deliver a prime-time address to the nation Sunday night on the attack and the government’s efforts to keep the nation safe.
Early on Saturday, authorities with guns drawn raided a home next door to the house where Farook's family used to live in Riverside, California, breaking windows and using a cutting torch to get into the garage, neighbors said.
The FBI would not say what it was looking for, but a neighbor said an old friend of Farook's lives there.
More than three years ago, that person bought the two assault rifles later used in the shooting, but authorities haven't been able to talk to him because he checked himself into a mental hospital after the attack, said a law enforcement official who was not allowed to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI has said the man is not a suspect in the shootings, though they want to question him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.