Muslim advocates in California say the mass shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 17 wounded should not be blamed on the religion of Islam.
The two suspects have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said were in a relationship, possibly married or engaged. He said they were believed to be the only shooters involved in an attack that required some degree of planning.
Both were slain hours after the shooting in a shootout with police, authorities said.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR in the Los Angeles area, appealed to the public not to jump to conclusions about the motives of the suspects. He also urged the public to refrain from blaming the religion of Islam for the suspected shooter's actions.
"Unfortunately we know we live at a time when there is a lot of tension and there's a lot of blaming of Islam and Muslims for the acts of criminals out there," said Ayloush
While the motive remains unclear, authorities have not ruled out terrorism.
Farook was US born, while Malik's nationality was still undetermined. They were parents of a six-month-old baby girl.
Farook's family and co-workers struggled to make sense of the shooting, the deadliest in the United States in three years. His brother-in-law went before television cameras and said he had "absolutely no idea" why Farook would stage a massacre.
According to the police chief, Farook was a county public health employee who attended the party, held in a conference building on the campus of the Inland Regional Center - a social services agency - and at some point stormed out. He returned with Malik to open fire on the celebration. The couple were dressed in assault-style clothing and also placed several bombs at the scene, which police detonated.
The shooting rampage marked the deadliest US gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School
in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, in which 27 people, including the gunman, were killed.