Although police did not provide details on exactly how the killings took place, they said three of the victims – Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62 – were “taken ambushed without warning, shot and killed.”
Then, after community members marked a somber Friday prayer followed by a burial for two of the victims, a fourth man – Naeem Hussain, 25 – was found dead, hours after attending the service. He became the third Muslim killed in the city in two weeks and the fourth since November.
Although police have not definitively said the four attacks were linked, they said they are investigating whether this is the case. With no one in custody, police have not commented on a possible motive or whether any of the shootings are being investigated as a hate crime.
However, it is “deeply disturbing” that the victims are Muslim and of similar ancestry, said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the city police department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
Police have released no description of a suspect or suspects in the murders. They did, however, say they were looking for “a vehicle of interest”, which could be linked to the four murders. The vehicle is a dark silver sedan that police believe may be a Volkswagen Jetta.
But it’s still unclear who owns the car, or where it was in the photos released by the department. Police said the vehicle “is believed to have been used as a transport in the recent killings of 4 Muslim men”.
“Everyone thinks this vehicle is very important to what happened in at least two of the shootings,” Mayor Timothy Keller told CNN on Monday. “We also have casings that we can link together through the national database. So that gives us some confidence. But we may have a long way to go.”
The Ambush Murders
The three most recent murders claimed the lives of men from Pakistan, and the series of shootings drew the attention of investigators to the unsolved killing of an Afghan reported in 2021.
The latest murder took place just before midnight on August 5 in the Truman Street and Grand Avenue area. Police responded to reports of a shooting and found Naeem Hussain dead from a gunshot wound.
He had attended the funerals of two other victims the same day and expressed concern about the shooting, according to a spokesman for an Albuquerque mosque.
On August 1, officers found Muhammad Afzaal Hussain on a sidewalk around 9:19 p.m. in the Cornell Street and Lead Avenue area. He had been shot and died of his injuries, police said.
On July 26, officers found Aftab Hussein with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island at 10:30 p.m. He also died of his injuries, according to police.
The August 1 and July 26 shootings led police to determine whether they could be linked to another murder that occurred on November 7. That day, officers found an Afghan man, Mohammad Ahmadi, with gunshot wounds in the parking lot behind the company he ran with. his brother.
“Our homicide detectives and investigators currently believe there is a strong possibility that the same individual committed all three crimes,” Hartsock said last week, referring to the shootings of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi. “Although we don’t explain why we believe this, there is a strong commonality among all of our victims: their race and religion.
“We take this very seriously and want the public’s help in identifying this cowardly individual who in all three instances ambushed his victims without warning, shot and killed them,” Hartsock added.
Albuquerque’s Muslim community lives in fear
Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said the killings left the city’s Muslim community on edge, with some too afraid to go to mosques, buy food or sit outside. .
Assed said he, too, is now one of many New Mexico Muslims who grapple with fear on a daily basis.
“I get in the car and look every way I can. I look in my side mirror. I look out the back. I look for any sign of anything out of the ordinary,” he said. declared. said.
After hearing the news of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain’s death, a Muslim mother of nine in Albuquerque told her children, “‘I don’t want you to leave the house after a certain hour,'” the mother said, Samia Assed, at CNN on Tuesday.
“I’ve been vigilant outside. We’re watching each other. We’re not going out. Our daily routines have changed,” she said.
The city is now increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim-affiliated schools and the University of New Mexico. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also announced the dispatch of additional state troopers to Albuquerque.
“We have additional police patrols in each mosque during prayer times. We deliver meals to people who are afraid to leave their homes. We also provide trauma services to people at their homes or mosques for this I’m going through,” Keller said. “Right now, these are very, very trying times for this community and our city.”
Who were the victims
Naeem Hussain emigrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 – fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim – and had just become a US citizen last month, according to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami.
The young man, who owned a trucking business, was described as a kind, generous and hardworking person.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain worked in the planning team of the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of the Punjab in Pakistan before obtaining a master’s and bachelor’s degree in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a press release from the mayor.
“Muhammad was sweet and kind, and laughed fast,” Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil said. “He was highly respected and appreciated by his colleagues and members of the community.”
Few details have been released about the other two victims.