All we know about ‘serial killing’ of Muslim men in New Mexico as suspect arrested

An investigation into the murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has moved forward with the arrest of a “prime suspect”.

Police announced the arrest on Tuesday, saying it was linked to “the recent killing of a Muslim man” and that the suspect was tracked down via the vehicle they were driving.

The development came two days after authorities released a photo of a vehicle of interest in the investigation involving the murders of four men: Aftab Hussein, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Ahmadi.

Three of the four deaths happened in quick succession, leading investigators to argue there was a “strong possibility” the men were targeted because they were of Muslim or South Asian background.

The police are expected to provide more information about Tuesday’s arrest at an afternoon press conference. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far:

Four murders are believed to be related

On July 26, Aftab Hussein, 41, a cafe worker and member of Albuquerque’s large Afghan community, was found dead of gunshot wounds near the city’s International District.

Two weeks later, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain (27), who came to the United States from Pakistan and worked as planning director for the city of Española, was also found dead of gunshot wounds in Albuquerque.

Then, on Friday, Naeem Hussain was shot to death in the parking lot of an Albuquerque NGO that provides services to refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Islamic Center of New Mexico.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was killed on August 1, 2022 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was killed on August 1, 2022 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Aftab Hussein, 41, was killed on July 26 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Aftab Hussein, 41, was killed on July 26 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Hussain, who is from Afghanistan and Pakistan and has no apparent relation to Muhammad Hussain, had attended a funeral for two other slain men on the day of his murder.

“Now people are starting to panic,” Tahir Gauba, director of public affairs for the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told Albuquerque Journal. “I mean especially right after the funeral, on the same day, it happened again. So it’s just completely crazy.”

Police believe the murders may be linked to the death of Mohammad Ahmadi (62), who was shot behind the halal market he owned with his brother in November.

“There is one strong commonality in all of our victims — their race and their religion,” Albuquerque Police Deputy Chief Kyle Hartsock said this week during a press briefing, according to Reuters.

Naeem Hussain, 25, was killed on August 5, 2022 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Naeem Hussain, 25, was killed on August 5, 2022 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was found dead on November 7, 2021 (Albuquerque Police Department)

Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was found dead on November 7, 2021 (Albuquerque Police Department)

The victim’s brother describes fear gripping Albuquerque

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain’s brother spoke to The independent Monday, describing the shock waves the latest murders have sent through the community.

In the immediate aftermath of his brother’s death, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain said he could not understand why his sibling would have been targeted. That changed when he learned that two other Muslim men had been gunned down in the same part of Albuquerque within days.

“Then we thought something was happening against Muslims,” ​​he said The independent.

Hussain said that while he won’t jump to conclusions until authorities figure out a motive, the possibility of a faith-based link has heightened his community.

“No one went to work, no one went out to buy food, people canceled their meetings. I can’t sit on my balcony. I can’t go outside my apartment. This is very painful for us, he said.

The community reacts

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is reportedly offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrests of those involved in the murder. Albuquerque police are offering a $15,000 reward, according to NPR.

Officials have called for members of all backgrounds to work together and find a stop to the killing.

“This is something that affects all of us,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez said during a news conference Saturday. “Every member of this community needs to stand up.”

The city’s Office of Justice and Inclusion released information about the killings in Arabic, Farsi, Dari and Urdu on Saturday and asked for the community’s help in catching the killer or killers.

“We are calling on our entire interfaith community in Albuquerque and all the people of Albuquerque to help the police identify and capture the person or persons responsible,” Michelle Melendez, who heads the office, said during the briefing. “Please, please, call with some information.”

Local leaders condemned the violence. Ahmad Assed, the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told New York Times: “We are incredibly sickened by the idea that someone has so much hatred towards innocent people. We are afraid for our families, we are afraid for our children. And we are incredibly confused as to why this is happening.”

The Albuquerque Police Department asked for the public's help in locating a Volkswagen sedan linked to the murders (Albuquerque Police Department)

The Albuquerque Police Department asked for the public’s help in locating a Volkswagen sedan linked to the murders (Albuquerque Police Department)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Saturday on Twitter that the killings were “deeply angry and completely intolerable” and pledged “to do everything we can to support the Muslim community in Albuquerque and greater New Mexico during this difficult time.”

“You are New Mexicans, you are welcome here and we stand with you,” she added.

Local police, as well as the FBI; New Mexico State Police; Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the US Marshals Service are all assisting in the investigation.

“On top of our investigations into this homicide, we are devoting resources to key patrol areas and neighborhoods in Albuquerque,” APD Chief Harold Medina said Saturday. “We lifted the overtime caps for our officers so we could use more of our specialized units to ensure the strong presence of Albuquerque officers to keep the community safe.”

According to the latest federal data, it was 55 reported hate crime incidents in 2020, up from 50 in 2019, incidents disproportionately targeted African Americans.

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