Afghan Muslim arrested for killings that rocked New Mexico’s Islamic community

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, Aug 9 (Reuters) – A Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan has been arrested as a prime suspect in the serial killings of four Muslim men that have rocked the Islamic community in New Mexico’s largest city, a police announced on Tuesday.

After days of tightening security around Albuquerque-area mosques, seeking to allay fears of a shooter motivated by anti-Muslim hatred, police announced Tuesday that they have arrested Muhammad Syed, 51, who is doing part of the city’s Islamic immigrant community.

Authorities said the killings may have been rooted in personal grudges, possibly with intra-Muslim sectarian overtones.

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The four victims were of Afghan or Pakistani origin. One was killed in November and the other three in the past two weeks.

A search of the suspect’s home in Albuquerque revealed “evidence which shows that the attacker knew the victims to some degree, and that an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting,” police said in a statement announcing the incident. ‘arrest.

Investigators are still gathering the motives for the murders of the four men, Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said at a news conference.

In response to questions from reporters, Hartsock said the suspect’s sectarian animosity toward fellow Muslim victims may have played a role in the violence. “But we don’t really know if that was the actual pattern, or if it was part of a pattern, or if there’s just a bigger picture that we’re missing,” he said.

Syed has a record of criminal offenses in the United States, including a case of domestic violence, for the past three or four years, Hartsock said.

Police credited dozens of tips from the public with helping investigators locate a car that detectives believe was used in at least one of the murders and ultimately track down the man they called their “suspect.” principal” in the four murders.

Syed has been formally charged with two of the homicides: those of Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, who were killed on July 26 and August 1 respectively, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold said. Medina, during the briefing.

The latest victim, Nayeem Hussain, 25, a truck driver who became an American citizen on July 8, was killed on Friday, hours after attending the funeral of the two men killed in July and August, both of Pakistani origin. .

The three most recent victims all attended the Islamic Center of New Mexico, Albuquerque’s largest mosque. They were all shot near Central Avenue in southeast Albuquerque.

The first known victim, Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan, was killed on November 7, 2021, while smoking a cigarette outside a grocery store and cafe he ran with his brother in southeast Afghanistan. the city.


Police said the two murders Syed was initially charged with were linked to bullet casings found at both murder scenes, and the gun used in those shootings was later found in his home.

Police say detectives were preparing to search Syed’s residence in southeast Albuquerque on Monday when he drove away from the residence in the car that investigators had identified to the public a day earlier as a “vehicle of ‘interest”.

Albuquerque and state authorities worked to provide additional police presence at mosques during prayer times as the investigation continued in the city, which is home to up to 5,000 Muslims out of a total population of 565,000. .

The men’s ambush-style shootings terrified Albuquerque’s Muslim community. Families have been hiding in their homes and some Pakistani students from the University of New Mexico have left town out of fear.

Imtiaz Hussain, whose brother worked as an urban planning director and was killed on August 1, said news of the arrest had reassured many members of the Muslim community.

“My kids asked me, ‘Can we sit on our balcony now?’ and I said, ‘Yes’ and they said, ‘Can we go out and play now?’ and I said ‘Yes,'” he said.

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Reporting by Andrew Hay in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub in Washington; Tyler Clifford in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Cynthia Osterman, Daniel Wallis and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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