What we know about the recent killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque
The murders of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Naeem Hussain, 25, all have one thing in common: the victims were all Muslim and of South Asian descent, according to the Albuquerque Police.
The three most recent killings occurred within the space of two weeks, putting the city on edge as police investigate potential links between the attacks and bring to light an unsolved November 2021 homicide.
“While we are still reviewing all of the evidence for further connections, it is deeply troubling that these three men are Muslims and of similar ancestry,” said the deputy commander of the police department’s criminal investigations division. Albuquerque, Kyle Hartsock.
Here’s what we know about the murders and the investigation so far:
How did the killings happen?
After the discovery, Albuquerque police said the homicide “may be linked” to three previous murders of South Asian Muslim men.
These three men – Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi – were all “ambushed without warning, shot and killed”, Hartsock previously said.
Two of them, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein, were both Pakistanis and were killed in southeast Albuquerque near Central Avenue. Police said they “determined there was a connection” between the two deaths.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was shot and killed on August 1. He was found on a sidewalk in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue.
A few days earlier, on July 26, Aftab Hussein was found with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island. He later died of his injuries, police said.
As investigators investigated the recent killings, they turned their attention to the November 7, 2021 homicide of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan who was killed outside a business he ran with his brother on San Boulevard. Mateo.
Who are 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.
He opened his own trucking company this year and has been described as a kind, generous and hardworking person.
On the day he was killed, he had attended the funerals of the two recent victims and expressed his fear of the shooting, according to a spokesperson for an Albuquerque mosque.
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 quick to laugh,” Mayor John Ramon Vigil said in a press release last Wednesday. “He was highly respected and appreciated by his colleagues and members of the community.”
Few details have been released about the other two victims. Police said Mohammad Ahmadi was a Muslim from Afghanistan and Aftab Hussein was a Muslim from Pakistan.
Where is the investigation?
Police said the vehicle “is believed to have been used as a transport in the recent killings of 4 Muslim men”.
“We have a very, very strong lead. We have a vehicle of interest…we need to find that vehicle,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “We don’t know at this point what it is associated with, or who it belongs to.”
Although police have not definitively said the four attacks were linked, they said they are investigating whether this is the case.
“There is a strong commonality between all the victims: race and religion,” Hartsock said during a Thursday briefing.
How are local and national leaders reacting?
After Friday’s murder, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Saturday that she would send additional state troopers to Albuquerque.
“I am angry and saddened that this is happening in New Mexico, a place that prides itself on diversity of culture and thought. That’s not who we are,” Grisham said in a statement. “We will not stop in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families and we are doing everything we can to apprehend the killer(s) – and we will find them.”
The attacks were also condemned by President Joe Biden, who said he was “irritated and saddened” by the attacks.
“Pending a full investigation, my prayers go out to the families of the victims and my administration strongly supports the Muslim community,” Biden wrote on Twitter.
The city is now increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim-affiliated schools and the University of New Mexico.
“Albuquerque is on edge right now, and I want to make it clear that we, and our law enforcement partners, are directing all possible resources to these cases. We will protect our community and bring the author of bring these crimes to justice. We unequivocally denounce these senseless killings and support our Muslim community against intolerance and violence in all its forms,” Keller said.
“We’ve heard from the community that the fear is so strong, there’s concern even for things like groceries and getting meals for some people in some parts of town,” he said. Keller said during a weekend briefing. “Our Department of Senior Affairs and our Department of Community Safety will provide meals for as long as we need them, to anyone who needs a meal and is impacted by this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, local and national Muslim groups have warned residents to be careful.
“We urge everyone to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, including being careful not to be followed in your home and avoiding walking alone at night,” the Islamic Center of New Mexico posted on Facebook. “This is especially true for our members living in the southeast part of town where these killings took place.”
The center said that although there is no evidence that its mosque was targeted, it is still taking steps to provide additional security measures.
The Council is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, the organization said, calling the series of killings a “horrifying and heinous shooting”.
CNN’s Claudia Dominguez and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.