NEW DELHI: Multiple gun wielding assailants terrorised the city of San Bernardino -- home to 200,000 people in southern California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles -- on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding another 17 at a centre for the disabled. The attack culminated in a shootout in a residential neighbourhood that killed two suspects, and placed a possible third in custody.

The shooting started at 11 AM local time at the Inland Regional Center inside a building that was being used by the county health department for a holiday party. Police chief Jarrod Burguan told the New York Times that a attackers also left an object that “is believed to be potentially an explosive device.”

Having opened fire, the attackers soon fled in a black SUV, leading to a police chase. The city came to a standstill, with residents advised to stay indoors, government buildings, shops, offices and schools were shut or put on lockdown.

The scene culminated in a residential neighbourhood, as police closed down on a vehicle housing two assailants. Hundreds of shots were fired and the two people -- a man and a woman -- in the vehicle were killed. A possible third suspect was taken into custody. The identities of these three people have not yet been revealed. A motive has not yet been established.

However, two senior law enforcement officials identified one of the suspects as Syed Farook, an employee of the county public health department.

The New York Times said that said that some investigators believed that one of the attackers had worked at the facility and recently had a dispute with fellow employees, according to law enforcement officials who did not want to be identified.

Chief Burguan confirmed that someone left the party after a dispute, “but we have no idea if those were the people that came back.”

Investigators, however, are not ruling out terrorism either, with David Bowdich, assistant director of the F.B.I.’s office in Los Angeles saying, “We will go where the evidence takes us… It is possible it will go down that road.”

There are marked difference between Wednesday’s attack and attacks of terror, such as the brutal attacks in Paris last month. The attack in San Bernardino took place at a little known location, affecting the families of those involved as opposed to the public at large; the attack in Paris, in contrast, like other terror attacks, took place in large public areas where a carnage would have greatest shock value.

Further, Wednesday’s attack falls in line with the US’ recent history of violence and mass shootings. It came just days after a shooter opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, killing three people and wounding nine others. A bloody siege that lasted for hours led to the gunman surrendering to the police.

In October, a gunman killed his English professor and eight others at a community college in Oregon. In August, a television reporter and cameraman were killed by a former employee of the TV station they were employed by, on live television in Roanoke, Virginia.

According to Reuters, here have been about 350 mass shootings in the US so far in 2015, defined as incidents in which four or more people were shot.

US President Obama called for restrictions on access to guns in the wake of the attack. “We should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal,” he said in a previously scheduled interview with CBS News. He added, “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world, and there’s some steps we could take, not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don’t happen as frequently.”