Saturday 22 October 2016

'We must search ourselves as a society,' says Obama

Robert Tait San Bernardino

Published 04/12/2015 | 02:30

SWAT officers enter the area near the mass shooting, which was been condemned by President Obama
SWAT officers enter the area near the mass shooting, which was been condemned by President Obama

US President Obama last night called on Americans to "search ourselves, as a society" in the aftermath of the mass murder at a disabled centre.

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President Obama said: "We see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country, and I think so many Americans feel there is nothing we can do about it.

"We all have a part to play to make sure that, in future, when individuals decide they want to do harm, we make it a little harder for them to do it.

"Right now, it's just too easy."

Wednesday night's mass shooting, which ended in 14 deaths at a centre for disabled people in San Bernardino, was carried out by a husband and wife, according to the 'Los Angeles Times' newspaper.

Police named the two suspects as Syed Rizwan Farook (28) and Tashfeen Malik and said the pair appeared to be "in a relationship", although they did not confirm the couple were married.

However, Farook's colleagues at the Inland Regional Centre - where 14 people were shot dead and another 17 were wounded - told the 'LA Times' that he had gone to Saudi Arabia and returned with a new wife, whom he had met online. An unnamed family member identified the wife as Malik.

The pair were later killed by police in a shoot-out several hours after the attack on the centre.

President Obama said that: "It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don't know. It is also possible that this was workplace-related," said Obama, who ordered flags flown at half-mast after the tragedy.

The San Bernardino shooting is the latest in a long series of US mass shootings during Mr Obama's seven years in office, and is the deadliest since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which he has said was his toughest day as president.

Speaking from the Oval Office after meeting with his national security advisers, the president expressed sympathy for the victims and said the United States needs to pass laws to "make it a little harder" for people seeking to do harm to get access to weapons.

But he took a less angry tone than he has used after other recent mass shootings, and sought to reassure Americans who are nervous after attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants last month.

He said the FBI would take the lead in the investigation and would do a "large number of interviews" and pore over "social media and electronic information".

But Obama said the shooters may have had "mixed motives", which could make the investigation more complicated, and warned it could take "some time" to reach conclusions.

"We do know that two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry in their home. But we don't know why they did it," he said.

"We don't know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations," he added .

Jarrod Berguan, San Bernardino's police chief, said that Mr Farook appeared to be popular with co-workers, some of whom described him as "living the American dream".

Mr Berguan said no motive had been established, but added that "terrorism is not ruled out" at this point.

The amount of weaponry the killers had brought to the scene, including three pipe bombs, suggested that the crime had involved a degree of planning and was unlikely to have been "a spur-of-the-moment thing", the police chief said.

Investigators sealed off an area near Farook's home in Centre Street in a smart middle-class neighbourhood in the town of Redlands, about six miles from San Bernardino.

Police no longer believe a third gunman was involved, contrary to earlier reports.

The attackers were dressed in military-style gear and carried assault weapons as they burst into the auditorium where the bloodbath took place, lent out for the holiday party by the Inland Regional Center.

David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, also said authorities were not ruling out terrorism.

"I'm still not willing to say we know that for sure," he said.

Farook's brother-in-law addressed a news conference later in the evening. Farhan Khan said he had last spoken to Farook about a week ago and expressed his condolences to all the families affected.

"I have no idea why he'd do it," he said. "Why would he do it? Why would he do something like this?"

(© Daily Telegraph London)

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