Muslim community in fear following string of killings

The four killings occurred within a nine-month period.

August 10, 2022, 9:04 AM

Muslim communities are reeling after the fourth killing in a potential string of murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

All the deaths have taken place in a nine-month period, stoking fear among local faith groups and garnering attention from Muslim leaders nationwide.

The APD chief of police announced Tuesday that the Volkswagen sedan believed to be involved in the most recent murder of 25-year-old Pakistan native Naeem Hussain has been tracked down and the driver has been detained.

Muhammad Syed, 51, is the primary suspect in the murders, according to the APD. Syed has been charged with murder in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Aftab Hussein, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said, adding that investigators are working with the district attorney's office on potential charges for the murders of the other two men.

The news comes just after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, announced a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths.

"The lives of Albuquerque Muslims are in danger. Whoever is responsible for this horrific, hateful shooting spree must be identified and stopped -- now," CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement.

Police are investigating whether the killing is connected to the Aug. 1 shooting death of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, as well as the July 26 murder of Aftab Hussein, 41 -- both of whom are also from Pakistan.

An Imam leads a group of men during the Dhuhr afternoon prayer at the Islamic Center of New Mexico on Aug. 7, 2022, after the fourth Muslim man was murdered in Albuquerque.
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire

The November 2021 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim man from Afghanistan who was killed outside a business he ran with his brother, may also be connected, police say.

The Islamic Center of New Mexico is holding a memorial Tuesday evening for the four men.

"Our local and national officials continue to work hard in their investigation, and we will continue to remain vigilant," a press release for the event read. "We are still early in the process of grieving, but we would like to announce a memorial that will take place to raise prayers in remembrance of our four Muslim Brothers, whose lives were violently taken away."

During a Saturday press conference, Mayor Tim Keller, alongside the group's president, Ahmad Assed, told reporters that the tragic murders have impacted Muslims throughout the city.

"We have members of our Muslim community who are afraid to participate in everyday activities. They should never be afraid to do things like shopping, things like praying, things like going to school," Keller said.

Assed told reporters that his group, alongside local officials, is working to combat these fears.

Altaf Hussein cries over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein at Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque, N.M., on Aug. 5, 2022.
Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire

"We're hopeful that our state will emerge again as the state we all know, as the warm and diverse [state], the diverse cultures, the welcoming of diverse cultures," Assed said. "We will defeat hate."

Local Muslim leaders are looking to law enforcement for safety in response to the murders, as officials increase their presence near Muslim institutions.

Locals say they fear for their safety and are urging one another to take extra precautions, such as traveling in groups, being aware of one's surroundings and avoiding walking alone at night.

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

Tahir Gauba, the spokesperson at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, asked police in a University of New Mexico safety forum to sit down with Pakistani students and speak with them about their fears and concerns.

"There were at least four or five students -- international Pakistani students -- who have left our town because they were concerned for their safety," Gauba told police during the call.

The APD asked the Muslim community on Saturday to "be vigilant" and report anything suspicious to law enforcement officials.

"This tragedy is impacting not only the Muslim community -- but all Americans," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement. "We must be united against hate and violence regardless of the race, faith or background of the victims or the perpetrators. We urge anyone with information about these crimes to come forward by contacting law enforcement."

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