Aftermath of San Bernardino massacre
Aftermath of San Bernardino massacreReuters

Some victims of the San Bernardino attack plan to file a legal brief in support of the U.S. government's attempt to force Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the shooters, a lawyer representing the victims said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The lawyer, Stephen Larson, told the news agency that the victims he represents have an interest in the information which goes beyond the Justice Department's criminal investigation.

"They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen," Larson said.

He added he was contacted a week ago by the Justice Department and local prosecutors about representing the victims, prior to the dispute becoming public. He said he will file an amicus brief in court by early March.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the matter on Sunday.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI break into the iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people on December 2, and died hours later in a gun battle with police. The iPhone was recovered from the couple’s vehicle in the aftermath of the attack.

But Apple has refused the court order, saying it “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

The FBI is seeking the tech company's help to access Farook's phone by disabling some of its passcode protections. The company argues such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.

The ruling from U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym requires Apple to provide the FBI with software that can disable the security feature that erases data from the iPhone after too many unsuccessful attempts to unlock it.

The FBI has said that Farook and Malik were both radicalized "for quite some time" and had taken target practice at Los Angeles-area shooting ranges, one of them "within days" of the massacre.

It is believed Farook had contact with people from at least two terrorist organizations overseas, and investigators have also said Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in a Facebook posting.