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FBI: Investigating Calif massacre as 'act of terrorism'

The FBI said Friday it has taken the lead role in the investigation of the San Bernardino mass shootings, and that it would investigate the attack as an act of terrorism.

David Bowdich of the FBI's Los Angeles office told reporters Friday that investigators had uncovered "telephonic connections" between the two shooters and other subjects of the investigations. He said he did not know if the couple had been directed by a larger terror organization, but "we are looking very carefully into that."

Still, he cited a number of pieces of evidence that pushed the agency to officially declare a terrorism investigation.

With a young wife, infant daughter and government job, Syed Farook appeared to have arrived at a sweet-spot in life. Friends knew the 28-year-old by his quick smile, his devotion to his Muslim religion and earnest talk about cars he would restore.

They didn't know the man authorities say was busy with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, building homemade bombs and stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition for a commando-style assault Wednesday on a holiday party of his co-workers that killed 14 and injured 21.

Malik, for her part, had posted a statement of support for ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi online "just before the attack," a law enforcement official told NBC News.

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A Facebook executive told The Associated Press that Malik posted the material under an alias account at 11 a.m. Wednesday. That was about the time the first 911 calls came in and when the couple were believed to have stormed into the San Bernardino social service center and opened fire.

The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not allowed under corporate policy to be quoted by name. The company discovered the Facebook account Thursday. It removed the profile from public view and reported its contents to law enforcement.

Despite this find, authorities looking into the shooters have found no evidence in the couple's house to suggest any substantive connection to a foreign terror organization, a U.S. government source told Reuters.

Bowdich said he was aware of the post, but declined to comment on it further. Authorities said they continue to look for the details of the killers' motive.

Syed Rizwan Farook, in an undated image from social media.
Source: Social Media
Syed Rizwan Farook, in an undated image from social media.

A man who knew Farook from his mosque said he had trouble understanding the events.

"This was a person who was successful, who had a good job, a good income, a wife and a family. What was he missing in his life?" asked Nizaam Ali.

As authorities identified the dead and details about Farook's life began to take shape, the question of what motivated the slaughter remained unanswered. A U.S. intelligence official said Farook had been in contact with known Islamic extremists on social media.

Still, there is no evidence to suggest that ISIS "even knew" who the shooters were, a government source told Reuters.

Read MorePipe bombs, ammo found at Calif shooters' home: Official

Farook had no criminal record and was not under scrutiny by local or federal law enforcement before the attacks.

Authorities say that the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino before fleeing. They died four hours later and two miles away during a furious gunbattle with police.

The pair had more than 1,600 bullets when they were killed. Police said they also had 12 pipe bombs, tools to make more explosives, and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition at home.

The FBI's Bowdich said it was "certainly a possibility" that the shooters were planning a second attack.

Police Lt. Mike Madden, one of the first officers to reach the room at the social services center, where Farook's colleagues from San Bernardino County's public health department had gathered, said the carnage was "unspeakable," the scene overwhelming: the smell of gunpowder, the wails of the injured, the blood, fire sprinklers pumping and fire alarms blaring. All in a room with a Christmas tree and decorations on every table.

The dead ranged in age from 26 to 60. Among the 21 injured were two police officers hurt during the manhunt, authorities said. Two of the wounded remained in critical condition Thursday.

Nearly all the dead and wounded were county employees.

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They were remembered Thursday night as several thousand mourners gathered at a local ball park for a candlelight and prayer vigil with leaders of several religions paying them tribute. Mayor Carey Davis urged people to "dedicate and commit ourselves to strengthen our families to overcome." The names of the dead were read and participants sang "God Bless America."

Syed Rizwan Farook was born in Chicago on June 14, 1987, to parents born in Pakistan. He was raised in Southern California.

In July 2010, he was hired as a seasonal public employee and served until December of that year, according to a work history supplied by the county. In January 2012, he was rehired as a trainee environmental health specialist before being promoted two years later. Among his job duties was inspecting restaurants.

Police officers conduct a manhunt after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California December 2, 2015.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Police officers conduct a manhunt after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California December 2, 2015.

The soft-spoken Farook was known to pray every day at San Bernardino's Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque. That is where Nizaam Ali and his brother Rahemaan Ali met Farook.

The last time Rahemaan Ali saw his friend was three weeks ago, when Farook abruptly stopped coming to pray. Rahemaan Ali said Farook seemed happy and his usual self. Both brothers said they never saw anything to make them think Farook was violent.

They remember when Farook announced that he would be getting married, saying he had met his future wife online and that she was Pakistani. Farook told the brothers that he traveled to Mecca in Saudi Arabia last summer.

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They said he was gone about a month before returning to the U.S. with his wife. Malik arrived on a K-1 visa for fiancees and with a Pakistani passport in July 2014, authorities said.

The two were married on Aug. 16, 2014, in nearby Riverside County, according to their marriage license. Both listed their religion as Muslim. The couple had a 6-month-old daughter who they dropped with relatives Wednesday morning before the shooting.

Patrick Baccari, who sat at the same table as Farook at the employee party, recalled he was short on words and inclined to talk about cars, not religion.

However, a friend of a man killed in the rampage said Farook had a heated conversation about Islam two weeks before the attack.

Kuuleme Stephens said she happened to call Nicholas Thalasinos while her friend was talking with Farook at work. She said Thalasinos, a Messianic Jew who was passionately pro-Israel, told her Farook "doesn't agree that Islam is not a peaceful religion." Stephens said Farook replied that Americans don't understand Islam.

Stephens added that Thalasinos did not think their conversations would turn violent.

Farook legally bought two handguns used in the massacre and their two assault rifles were legally bought by someone else federal authorities wanted to question. That person's identity was not released.

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A profile on a matchmaking website for South Asians that matched Farook's name, California hometown, county health job and Muslim faith said his interests included target shooting in his backyard. Though the date of the posting was not clear, it listed his age as 22.

Details about Farook's upbringing are sparse.

He grew up in a turbulent home but later graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, with a degree in environmental health sciences in 2010.

A California Highway Patrol officer stands with his weapon as authorities pursued the suspects in a shooting that occurred at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.
Getty Images
A California Highway Patrol officer stands with his weapon as authorities pursued the suspects in a shooting that occurred at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.

Divorce records depicted a home divided by abuse. Farook's mother alleged in 2006 that her husband, also named Syed, attacked her while her children were present, dropped a TV on her and pushed her toward a car, according to records.

Rafia Sultana Farook filed a petition for a domestic violence order of protection on July 3, 2006, against her husband. She said she was forced to move out with three of her children because her husband continually harassed her "verbally and physically," according to the divorce records.

The Associated Press could not immediately reach the father for comment and was unable to corroborate the allegations in the records. No one answered the door at a home in Corona where a neighbor said the father lived.

—CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.