4 Muslims killed in New Mexico: police suspect crimes are linked
The murders of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, Mohammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussain, 41, and Naeem Hussain, 25, have one thing in common: Albuquerque police said all of the victims were Muslims and South Asians, reports CNN.
The last three murders took place within two weeks. Police were investigating a potential connection between the attacks and turned their attention to an unsolved murder committed in November 2021.
“While we are still going through all the evidence to find more connections, it is very disturbing that these three men were Muslims and had similar backgrounds,” said Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations Kyle Hartsock.
The FBI is helping with the investigation, and an online portal has been set up for residents to upload videos and images that can help authorities investigate the murders. The local crime council also voted to increase the reward to $20 for information leading to an arrest.
Police did not provide any description of the suspect or suspects in the killings. However, they said they were looking for a vehicle that could be linked to the four murders. The car is a dark silver Volkswagen Jetta or Passat sedan with tinted windows.
How did the killings take place?
The last of the killings was reported on July 29, when Naeem Hussain was found dead by Albuquerque police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight in the Truman Street and Grand Avenue area.
Upon discovery, Albuquerque police said the murder "may be linked" to three previous killings of South Asian Muslim men.
The three — Muhammad Afzaal Hussein, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi — were all “ambusped without warning, they were fired upon and the men were killed,” Hartsock said earlier.
Two of them, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussain, were both Pakistanis and were killed in southeast Albuquerque near Central Avenue. Police said they had "established a connection" between the two deaths.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was shot dead on 1 August. It was found on the sidewalk near Cornell Street and Lead Avenue.
Just a few days earlier, on July 26, Aftab Hussein was found with obvious gunshot wounds in a Rhode Island neighborhood. He later died as a result of his injuries, police said.
As investigators investigated the recent killings, they turned their attention to the November 7, 2021 killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, an Afghan Muslim who was killed outside his office of the company he ran with his brother on San Mateo Boulevard.
Who are the victims?
Naeem Hussain emigrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 - fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim - and only became a US citizen last month, according to his son-in-law Ehsan Shahalami.
This year he opened his own trucking business and has been described as a kind, generous and hardworking person.
On the day he was killed, he attended the funeral of two recent victims and expressed misgivings about the shooting, according to a spokesman for a mosque in Albuquerque.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain worked in the planning group of the city of Hispaniola. According to the mayor's press release, he studied law and human resource management at the Punjab University in Pakistan and then received a master's and bachelor's degree in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico.
“Muhammad was quiet and kind and also laughed a lot,” Mayor John Ramon Vigil said in a press release. “He was respected and loved by colleagues and members of the community.”
There were no details about the other two victims. Police said Mohammad Ahmadi was a Muslim from Afghanistan and Aftab Hussein was a Muslim from Pakistan.
How is the investigation going?
So far, police have released a flyer featuring a "vehicle of interest" in all four murders. But it remains unclear who owns the car and how it is potentially linked to the attacks.
Police said "the car is suspected of being used as a means of transportation in the recent killings of four Muslim men."
“We have a very, very strong advantage. We have a description of the car. We have to find him," Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “At this point, we don’t know what it’s connected to or who it belongs to.”
Although the police have not definitively stated that all four attacks are connected, they have said they are looking into whether this is in fact the case.
“All the victims have one thing in common: race and religion,” Hartsock said at a briefing on August 4.
Authorities are asking the public for any information that could help with the investigation. Information can be sent to the Albuquerque Metro CrimeStoppers website.
How are local and national leaders reacting?
Following the latest assassination, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Aug. 6 that she would send additional state police to Albuquerque.
“I am outraged and saddened that this is happening in New Mexico, a place that prides itself on its diversity of cultures and thought. This is not who we are,” Grisham said in a statement. “We will not stop in our quest for justice for the victims and their families and will use every resource to apprehend the killer or killers – and we will find them.”
The attacks also drew condemnation from President Joe Biden, who said he was "outraged and saddened" by the attacks.
"While we await a full investigation, I pray with the families of the victims and my administration stands firmly behind the Muslim community," Biden tweeted.
The city is currently increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim schools, and the University of New Mexico.
“Albuquerque is on the brink right now, and I want to be clear that we and our partners in law enforcement are putting all the resources we can into these cases. We will protect our community and hold those responsible for these crimes accountable. We unequivocally condemn these senseless killings and, together with our Muslim community, stand against intolerance and violence in any form,” Keller said.
“We have heard from the community that the fear is so strong that there are concerns even about things like buying groceries for certain people in certain areas of the city,” Keller said at a briefing over the weekend. “Our public safety department will be providing food for as long as we need, to everyone who needs food, who has been affected by this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, local and national Muslim groups are warning residents to be careful.
“We urge everyone to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, including not being followed home and not walking alone at night,” the Islamic Center of New Mexico wrote on Facebook. “This is especially true for our members who live in the southeastern part of the city where these murders took place.”
The center said that while there is no evidence that its mosque is under attack, it is still taking steps to provide additional security measures.
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“Muslim lives in Albuquerque are in danger. Whoever is responsible for this horrific, hateful shooting must be identified and stopped—immediately,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The Council is offering a $10 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators, the organization announced, calling the killing spree a "terrible, hateful shooting."
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