The Muslim community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been shaken by the ambush-style shooting of four Muslim men.
According to Albuquerque police, the killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Naeem Hussain, 25, all have one commonality: the victims were all Muslim and of South Asian descent.
The three most recent killings happened within the span of two weeks, putting the city on edge as police probed for potential links among them – while bringing attention back to an unsolved homicide from November 2021 that may hold some clues about what is happening now.
Aftab Hussein was found with an apparent gunshot wound on July 26 and died of his injuries later. Just days later, on August 1, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was found dead from a gunshot wound not far from where Aftab Hussein was shot. Both men were Pakistani.
As police were making a possible connection between the recent murders and the homicide of Mohammad Ahmadi in November, Naeem Hussain was found dead from a gunshot wound just hours after attending the funeral of the two most recent victims. Naeem Hussain was found outside a business he ran with his brother.
Local authorities say It is “deeply troubling” how similar these motives seem between incidents though the police have not definitively said all four attacks are connected, however, they are looking into it.
On Monday, August 8, Mayor Timothy Keller told CNN, “everyone believes that the vehicle is very key to what happened in at least two of the shootings. We also have shell casings that we’re able to tie together through the national database. So that is giving us some confidence. But we may have a long way to go.”
Less than 24 hours later Albuquerque, Police Chief Harold Medina stated that they detained a man that is the “primary suspect” after tracking down a vehicle believed to be involved.
The Muslim community consisting of 3,000-4,000 people, is so on edge many are too afraid to go to the mosque or even go to the grocery store.
Ahmad Assed, President of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said the crime spree is affecting every aspect of daily life. People in the area are closing businesses early, and some have even left town until they feel it is safe to return.
Keller also said, “We’ve got extra police patrols at every mosque during prayer time. We’re delivering meals to folks afraid to come out of their homes. We’re providing trauma services for folks also in their home or at their mosque for what they’re going through. Right now these are very, very trying times for this community and our city.”
Muhammad Syed, a 51-year-old man from Albuquerque’s Muslim community, has been arrested as a suspect in the killings of two men that shocked and terrified their locals.
Hours before the arrest, CNN was able to speak to Syed’s daughter as the family cleaned up after investigators conducted a search. The contents of drawers were strewn about and living room rugs were tossed around. One item still in place was the flag of Afghanistan, from where Syed and his family moved years ago.
Police said Syed may have known the victims “to some extent” after finding firearms in the home, along with information connecting him to the victims. Bullet casings found at the scenes have been linked to one of the firearms recovered in his home. Casings for a handgun found in his car were also linked to one of the scenes.
Syed has denied any involvement in the killings, and police have yet to determine a motive for the killings, although there is talk that Syed, a Sunni Muslim, sought to kill Shia Muslims.
The daughter’s husband was friends with victims, Aftab Hussein and Naeem Hussain, and her father was not happy about her marriage that took place in February 2018.
The unnamed daughter told CNN, “My father is not a person who can kill somebody. My father has always talked about peace. That’s why we are here in the United States. We came from Afghanistan, from fighting, from shooting.”
Syed was arrested after being pulled over near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, about 120 miles from Albuquerque. According to his daughter, Syed headed to Texas to find a place for the family due to fear of the recent shootings.
Officals plan to charge Syed with homicide for Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.
Deputy commander of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division, Kyle Harstock said there was enough evidence connecting Syed with the killings of Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Zaheer Ahmadi as well.