Barack Obama
Barack ObamaReuters

In an Oval Office press conference on Thursday, US President Barack Obama said the brutal shooting at San Bernardino, California the day before could be "terrorist" - or it could be "workplace related."

"At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred," Obama said of the mass shooting in which 14 people were murdered, and another 17 were wounded during a Christmas party at a social services center.

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

"It is possible that this was terrorist related but we don’t know. And it’s also possible that this was workplace related," added Obama, leaving his comments ambiguous.

One of the attackers killed in a shootout with police was identified as Syed Farook, 28, an American citizen who worked at the San Bernardino County's public health department which was hosting the party. Tashfeen Malik, 27, was identified as the second dead suspect, with family saying the two were married. According to NBC, a knowledgeable source said another of the suspects is alleged to be Farook's brother. 

A man identifying himself as Farook's father told the New York Daily News that he was estranged from his son, but that Farook "was very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.”

Government records show that Farook, 28, traveled to Saudi Arabia last year, the Wall Street Journal revealed.

Obama's comments bring to mind the classification of "workplace violence" given to the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, when Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at the base, murdering 13 and wounding 32.

Hasan was sentenced to death for the attack after admitting to the massacre, claiming that the US was waging a "war on Islam" and that he had "switched sides," becoming a devout Muslim and exchanging emails with notorious Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in the run-up to the attack. Still, requests to classify the attack as Muslim terrorism were denied.