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Monday, October 3, 2022

Immigrant from Afghanistan Arrested Over Killing of 4 Muslims in Albuquerque

By A Correspondent

Photos of the four victims were put out with a statement by the Islamic Center of New Mexico. (Photo courtesy Islamic Center of New Mexico)

Albuquerque Police say they’ve found the vehicle and taken into custody its prime suspect in the recent killings of four Muslims. Reports from New Mexico’s largest city says the police and FBI agents arrested 51-year-old Muhammad Syed, reportedly an immigrant from Afghanistan. Police consider Syed to be the primary suspect in the killings.

Albuquerque police chief Harold Medina on Tuesday announced the update on Twitter. Harold Medina says as they prepared to search Syed’s home, Syed drove from the home in the Volkswagen Jetta they were searching for. Once police detained Syed, they searched his home and his vehicle finding evidence that tied Syed to the recent murders.

Detectives found evidence that shows Syed knew the victims and that a conflict might have lead to the shootings. Syed is being charged in the July 26, 2022 murder of Aftab Hussein and the Aug. 1, 2022 murder of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.

Police say they found bullet casings at both scenes that connected the two shootings. The gun that was used in both shootings was found during the search of Syed’s home.

Police will work with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office on possible charges in the August 5, 2022 murder of Naeem Hussain and the Nov. 7 2021 murder of Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi.

Ahmad Assed, the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, a mosque that at least three of the victims had attended, was quoted by The New York Times as saying he understood that the authorities were looking at the possibility that the suspect was a Sunni Muslim who may have been motivated by resentment over a marriage to a Shiite Muslim. He and the police cautioned that details remained sparse, and Ahmad Assed noted that at least one of the victims was Sunni.

NYT said Police officials were not yet sure if a dispute over a marriage was the sole motive, but said they were aware of it and had found evidence that an “interpersonal conflict” may have led to the shootings. Police chief Medina said it was not yet appropriate to label the killings as either hate crimes or serial murders.

The mysterious target killing of four Muslims, including three Pakistani-Americans, has put the Muslim community in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, in a state of shock and insecurity. Albuquerque police announced on August 7 they have found a possible lead in the murder of four Muslim men.

Albuquerque Police Deputy Chief Cecily Parker told reporters that the police have identified a vehicle they think might have been used in the killings. The vehicle, police believe, is a dark gray or silver, four-door Volkswagen that appears to be a Passat or a Jetta. The car has dark tinted windows. “Anyone with information is asked to go to crimestoppersnm.com or call 505-843-STOP,” the police added.

Earlier Sunday, President Joe Biden joined the government officials who have voiced their frustration and sadness over the slaying. Biden tweeted he was “angered and saddened” by the “horrific” killings.

“While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community,” Biden tweeted. “These hateful attacks have no place in America,” he added.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, the 27 years old Pakistani American who was the Director of Española Planning was found shot dead on August. 1. That same week, Aftab Hussein, 41, also a Pakistani-American was also killed. Both of the men attended the same mosque.

Hussain moved to the US in 2017 to get a master’s degree in community and regional planning at UNM and while there served as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association from 2019 to 2020.

On Monday around 9:20 p.m., Muhammad Afzaal was shot to death less than a block from his home on the 400 block of Cornell, south of Coal SE.

His older brother, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, told Albuquerque Journal that neighbors recounted seeing a car pull up alongside Muhammad Afzaal as someone inside opened fire — shooting once, and then between four and six more times.

Shortly before midnight Friday, August 5, another Muslim man, Naeem Hussain, 25 was found dead from a gunshot wound near Truman Street and Grand Avenue in Albuquerque’s Highland Business neighborhood, according to the Albuquerque Police Department. Naeem, who was originally from Afghanistan and lived as a refugee in Pakistan before immigrating to the US had recently started his own trucking business.

Police are also investigating whether a fourth murder — that of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, who was shot to death in November outside of a shop he ran with his brother — is tied to the three more recent ones.

Police have said they are investigating whether the same person — or persons — is responsible for their deaths and that of another Muslim man, 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi, who was killed in November behind the halal market he and his brother owned.

Meanwhile, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Islamic Relations, announced it was offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.

“If a bias-motive is determined, state and federal authorities should apply appropriate hate crime charges,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

After news reports on the incidents began circulating, the Anti-Defamation League’s Mountain States Region also called for prosecutors to pursue hate charges.

The league cited FBI statistics that found religion-based hate crimes reached a historically high level in 2020 — the most recent year for which statistics are available. It said Muslims were the group that experienced the second-highest number of hate crimes across the country.

“It is abhorrent that anyone would be attacked simply because of who they are, and we express our deep concern and support to the Muslim community of New Mexico,” said Regional Director Scott Levin. “We thank members of law enforcement for investigating and taking the matter seriously, and we strongly encourage prosecutors to pursue hate crime charges if the evidence shows that the murders were committed because of the victims’ Muslim identity.”

 

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