New Mexico police are asking for the public’s help in the investigation of four Muslim murders

Aug 7 (Reuters) – New Mexico police on Sunday asked for the public’s help in locating a “vehicle of interest” in their investigation into four fatal shootings of Muslim men including the Albuquerque killings in the past nine months are considered by investigators to be related.

Mayor Tim Keller said state authorities are working to provide an “additional police presence at mosques during prayer times” as the investigation continues in New Mexico’s largest city, which home to up to 5,000 Muslims out of some 565,000 inhabitants.

The latest victim, police say, was shot dead on Friday night, in a killing that local Islamic leaders say occurred shortly after attending the funerals of two other people killed in the past two weeks. .

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These three men, as well as the very first victim who was shot in November, were Muslim men of Pakistani or Afghan descent who resided in Albuquerque.

Police gave few details about the latest killing, but described the first three killings as ambush fire. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called them “targeted killings of Muslim residents”.

US President Joe Biden posted a message on Twitter expressing his solidarity with the Muslim community on Sunday, adding: “These hateful attacks have no place in America.”

Albuquerque police officials told a news conference hours later they were following a number of leads and released a bulletin with photos of a dark gray Volkswagen four-door sedan with tinted windows which they described as a “vehicle of interest” in the investigation.

It was unclear how the car was related to the case, and police said they have not yet determined whether they are looking for one or more suspects in the investigation.

The last three victims belonged to the same mosque, according to Tahir Gauba, spokesman for the Islamic Center of New Mexico. Authorities were concealing the identity of the man killed on Friday pending notification of next of kin.

But Gauba said he was killed shortly after attending the funerals of the two previous victims.

Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, planning director of the city of Espanola who immigrated from Pakistan, was shot dead on August 1 outside his apartment complex, less than a week after Aftab Hussein, 41, from the large Afghan community of Albuquerque, was found dead July 26 near the city’s International District, police said. Hussain also worked on the campaign team of U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury of New Mexico.

Police said they were treating these two killings, as well as Friday’s, as being linked to the November 7 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, also a Muslim from Afghanistan, who was shot dead in a parking lot in front of a halal supermarket. and coffee.

“There are several things in common with the four homicides,” city police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told reporters on Sunday.

When asked if investigators considered the murders to be hate crimes, Gallegos replied, “Hate is determined by a motive, and we don’t know that motive at this point.”

Gauba estimated that there are 3,000 to 5,000 Muslims living in and around Albuquerque, representing about 85% of the statewide Islamic population.

The New Mexico State Police, FBI and US Marshals Service are among the agencies involved in the investigation.

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Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Edwina Gibbs

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