San Bernardino jihadi Syed Rizwan Farook planned a terrorist attack in 2012 but backed out because he was “spooked” by several terror-related arrests in California at the time, law enforcement officials told CNN.
According to the news network, Farook and another person conspired to attack an unnamed target.
If true, Farook’s past planning undermines several theories about how the 28-year-old county health inspector became radicalized and what his motive was for last week’s attack, in which he and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people.
It was speculated early on that the attack was a case of workplace violence. Others, including the Farook family’s attorneys, pushed the theory that Farook was angered by a beef with a coworker with whom he sometimes discussed religion. One strain of that theory was that Farook was upset because some of his coworkers had made fun of his beard, which he had been growing out for several months before the attack.
Farook’s initial terror plot also occurred a year before he met the 29-year-old Malik, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Saudi Arabia. Some have speculated that Farook was radicalized by Malik, whose family reportedly has ties to radical Islamists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Farook and Malik are reported to have met online in 2013. The burqa-wearing Malik came to the U.S. with Farook on a K-1 fiance visa last year. The couple were married soon after. They left behind a six-month-old daughter.
As for Wednesday’s attack, NBC News reported on Tuesday that Farook and Malik had been plotting it since last year. The jihadis reportedly began practicing at a shooting range last year. They also began making financial arrangements for after the attack. Farook took out a $28,500 online loan last month. He reportedly gave half of that sum to his mother, Rafia Farook.
According to attorney general Loretta Lynch, investigators are looking “very, very closely” at the elder Farook, who shared the house with her son and daughter-in-law where 19 pipe bombs were recovered last week. The 62-year-old matriarch is an active member of the Islamic Circle of North America, a Muslim umbrella organization which has had ties to several known terrorists and radicals.
In a separate report, San Bernardino Sun reported on Tuesday that investigators found pictures of Rialto High School on Farook’s cell phone. It is not clear whether he was planning an attack on the school. The alternative theory is that he snapped the photos for his health inspection job. He reportedly inspected restaurants, hotels and schools.