Afghan charged with killing 2 Muslims in Albuquerque

A 51-year-old man from Afghanistan was charged on Tuesday with killing two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, authorities said, and he is suspected of killing two others whose deaths sparked controversy. fear in the country’s Muslim communities.

Authorities announced the arrest of Muhammad Syed a day after his arrest.

Police Chief Harold Medina said authorities found a vehicle suspected of being involved in one of the murders in New Mexico’s largest city.

“The driver has been arrested and is our prime suspect in the murders,” the tweet read.

Investigators received tips from the city’s Muslim community that pointed them to Syed, who arrived in the United States in recent years, police said.

The motive and exact nature of the relationship between Syed and the victims – and the victims with each other – remained unclear. But police continued to investigate how they crossed paths before the shooting.

“Detectives have uncovered evidence that shows the perpetrator knew the victims to some degree and that an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting,” police said in a news release.

The killings caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America.” They also sent a chill through Muslim communities, where some people questioned their safety and restricted their movement.

When told of the announcement, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, brother of one of the victims, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, said he felt relieved but needed to know more about the suspect and the motive.

“It gives us hope that we will get (the) truth out,” he said. “We need to know why.”

Naeem Hussain was killed on Friday evening, and the other three men died in ambushes. Three of the four murders have taken place in the past two weeks.

Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.

The first case concerns the murder in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.

So far, Syed has been charged with the murders of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain because casings found at the crime scene were linked to a firearm found at his home, authorities said.

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Investigators consider Syed to be the prime suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi, but have not yet filed charges in the cases.

Police were about to search Syed’s home in Albuquerque on Monday when they saw him drive off in a Volkswagen Jetta that investigators believe was used in at least one of the murders.

Officers tracked Syed to Santa Rosa, about 110 miles east of Albuquerque, where they stopped him for a traffic stop. Several firearms were recovered from his home and car, police said.

Syed’s sons have been questioned and released, authorities said.

Aneela Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community reeling from the killings, their grief compounded by confusion and fear of what might come next.

“We are just completely shocked and still trying to figure out and figure out what happened, how and why,” she said.

Some people have avoided going out unless “absolutely necessary” and some Muslim university students wonder if it’s safe for them to stay in the city, she said. The center has also strengthened its security.

Few anti-Muslim hate crimes have been recorded in Albuquerque in the past five years, according to FBI data cited by Brian Levindirector of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and professor of criminal justice at California State University at San Bernardino.

From 2017 to 2020, there was one anti-Muslim hate crime per year. The highest recent number dates back to 2016, when Albuquerque police recorded six out of 25 hate crimes.

That largely follows national trends, which hit the lowest numbers in a decade in 2020, only to rise 45% in 2021 in a dozen cities and states, Levin said.

The most recent victim was found dead after police received a call of a shooting. Authorities declined to say whether the murder was committed in a manner similar to the other deaths.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain had worked as a field organizer for a local MP’s campaign.

Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury issued a statement praising him as “one of the kindest, hardest-working people” she has ever known. She said the planner was “committed to making our public spaces work for every person and cleaning up legacy pollution”.

As director of land use for the city of Española – more than 137 kilometers north of Albuquerque – Hussain worked to improve conditions and inclusion for disadvantaged minorities, said the town hall.


Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Fam from Winter Park, Florida. Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington and AP researchers Rhonda Shafner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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