US mass shooting: Pakistan origin couple open fire at Christmas party

San Francisco: At least 14 people were killed and 17 others injured on Thursday when a heavily-armed young Pakistani-origin couple opened indiscriminate fire during a Christmas party at a centre for people with disabilities in California, the deadliest shooting in the US since 2012.

The shooters wearing 'assault-style clothing' targeted the party at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino and fled after the carnage in a black SUV, leading to a lengthy police chase. Hours later, the attackers were killed by police in an encounter.

Survivors are evacuated from the scene of the shooting under police and sheriff's escort in San Bernardino, California. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN
Survivors are evacuated from the scene of the shooting under police and sheriff's escort in San Bernardino, California. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN

Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino police identified the two suspects killed in the shootout with police as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, both of Pakistani-origin.

The shooting occurred when the employees of county health department were attending the party with more than 500 people were present at the centre, police said. Farook and Malik were married and the parents of a 6- month-old daughter, according to Farook's brother-in-law Farhan Khan.

Farook was born in the US and was an American citizen. He was an environmental specialist with the county health department who sometimes worked at the Inland Regional Center. Farook had been at the party and left 'angry' amid a dispute, Burguan said.
He and his wife then returned with explosive devices, assault-style rifles and handguns. They were dressed in 'dark, kind of tactical gear', the police chief said."We don't have the motive at this point. We have not ruled out terrorism," Burguan said.

"Based upon how they were equipped, there had to be some degree of planning that went into this. I don't think they just ran home and put on these tactical clothes, grabbed guns and came back on a spur of the moment thing," he said.

A photo made available by the San Bernadino Sun shows armed police officers at the scene of a fatal shooting in San Bernardino, California. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / DOUG SAUNDERS / SAN BERNARDINO SUN
A photo made available by the San Bernadino Sun shows armed police officers at the scene of a fatal shooting in San Bernardino, California. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / DOUG SAUNDERS / SAN BERNARDINO SUN

At least 14 people died in the shooting, police said, describing it as an incident of 'mass shooting'. Seventeen others were injured - mostly by bullets from automatic-style rifles. Some persons injured in the panic to escape.

"A device that looked like a bomb also flew out of the vehicle," an official was quoted as saying by media reports.

This still image  from video courtesy of CBS News shows police in San Bernardino, California surrounding a bullet-riddled SUV during the apparent shootout with suspects. AFP PHOTO / CBS NEWS

This still image  from video courtesy of CBS News shows police in San Bernardino, California surrounding a bullet-riddled SUV during the apparent shootout with suspects. AFP PHOTO / CBS NEWS

Sgt. Vicki Cervantes, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Police Department, said that the suspects are heavily armed and were wearing ski masks and possibly body armour.

The shooters burst into a conference room where a Christmas party was held and started shooting.

US President Barack Obama was briefed about the shooting by Homeland Securities officials and he called for a bipartisan effort "at every level of government" to address mass shooting problems, local media reported.

Reacting to the incident, President Barack Obama said, "We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it does not happen with the same frequency in other countries." The attack was the deadliest shooting on US soil since the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. 

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