US said to mull ‘new approach’ in war on terror at home
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US said to mull ‘new approach’ in war on terror at home

Following the deadly California shooting, top official says self-radicalized extremists an ‘outsourced attempt to attack our homeland’

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US law enforcement officers search for the suspects of a mass shooting  December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California.  (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK T.  FALLON)
US law enforcement officers search for the suspects of a mass shooting December 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK T. FALLON)

With US President Barack Obama set to address Americans Sunday in the wake of the California shooting attack that killed 14 people last week, Washington has been shifting its approach in combating the threat of homegrown self-radicalized extremists, a top US official said Saturday.

“We have moved to an entirely new phase in the global terrorist threat and in our homeland security efforts,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told The New York Times.

The FBI has been investigating last week’s attack in San Bernardino as a possible act of terrorism.

The terrorists have “in effect outsourced attempts to attack our homeland. We’ve seen this not just here but in other places,” he said.

“This requires a whole new approach, in my view,” Johnson added.

In this June 24, 2014, file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
In this June 24, 2014, file photo, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Increased airport security, tougher standards for visa waiver programs, and improved relations with Muslim communities will all help officials identify potential terror threats, Johnson told the Times.

Investigators are combing over evidence and looking into the background of Syed Farook, 28, and his 29-year-old Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik, the couple who opened fire at a social services center during a holiday party last Wednesday.

Top security officials have indicated that the pair had been radicalized. But the White House and the FBI say there are no signs they were part of a larger group or terrorist cell.

Obama will address the nation on Sunday evening in an effort to reassure Americans in the wake of the shooting and will give an update on the investigation into the two shooters.

The speech at 8:00 p.m. (0100 GMT Monday, 3 a.m. Israel time) from the Oval Office “will also discuss the broader threat of terrorism, including the nature of the threat, how it has evolved, and how we will defeat it,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

In the address, the president will include “the steps our government is taking to fulfill his highest priority: keeping the American people safe,” it said.

Syed Farook, left, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a shooting attack at a center for the disabled in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. (Photos from California Department of Motor Vehicles and FBI via AP)
Syed Farook, left, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a shooting attack at a center for the disabled in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. (Photos from California Department of Motor Vehicles and FBI via AP)

Authorities say the US-born Farook and Malik, who married last year in Saudi Arabia where she lived, carefully planned their attack.

David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said investigators were examining a Facebook posting in which Malik is believed to have pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made around the time of the attack.

In a radio broadcast in English, IS praised the couple as “soldiers of the caliphate” and martyrs, but did not specifically say they were members of the extremist group.

Relatives of Farook and his wife have also been at a loss to explain what triggered the killing spree, describing them as a quiet couple who kept to themselves. The family’s attorneys said that while the two were devout Muslims, there was no hint they had become radicalized.

They had a six-month-old daughter, whom they left with Farook’s mother before the shooting.

The heavily armed couple died in a ferocious shootout with police after a huge manhunt.

The massacre, if proven to be terror-related, would be the deadliest such assault on American soil since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

AFP contributed to this report.

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