While police have not given 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 ambushed without warning, on them. were shot and killed.”
As community members marked a gloomy Friday prayer followed by a funeral for two of the victims, a fourth man – 25-year-old Naeem Hussain – was found dead hours after attending the service. He became the third Muslim man to be murdered in the city within two weeks and the fourth since November.
While police have not definitively said that all four attacks are related, they have said they are investigating whether that 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 hate crimes.
However, it is “deeply disturbing” that the victims were Muslims and of similar descent, said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the city’s criminal investigation division.
Police have not released a description of a suspect or suspects in the murders. However, they have said they are looking for “an interesting vehicle” that may be related to the four murders. The vehicle is a dark silver sedan that police say may be a Volkswagen Jetta.
But it remains unclear who the car belongs to, or where it was from the photos released by the department. Police said the vehicle was “presumably used as a means of transport in the recent murders of 4 Muslim men.”
“Everyone believes that vehicle is the key to what happened in at least two of the shootings,” Mayor Timothy Keller told DailyExpertNews Monday morning. “We also have bullet casings that we can link together via the national database. So that gives us some confidence. But maybe we still have a long way to go.”
The ambush-style murders
The three most recent murders claimed the lives of Pakistani men, and the spate of shootings drew investigators’ attention to an unsolved murder of an Afghan man reported in 2021.
The latest murder occurred just before midnight on August 5 near Truman Street and Grand Avenue. Police responded to reports of a shooting and found Naeem Hussain dead from a gunshot wound.
He had attended the funeral of two other victims that same day and expressed concern about the shootings, a spokesman for an Albuquerque mosque said.
On Aug. 1, officers found Muhammad Afzaal Hussain on a sidewalk near Cornell Street and Lead Avenue around 9:19 p.m. He was shot and died of his injuries, police said.
On July 26, officers found Aftab Hussein with obvious gunshot wounds in Block 400 of Rhode Island at 10:30 p.m. He also died as a result of his injuries, according to police.
The August 1 and July 26 shootings prompted police to investigate whether they might be related to another murder that occurred on November 7. That day, officers found an Afghan man, Mohammad Ahmadi, with a gunshot wound in the parking lot behind the company he was driving. his brother.
“Our detectives and our investigators currently believe there is a strong possibility that the same person committed all three of these crimes,” Hartsock said last week, referring to the shootings of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi. “While we won’t go into why we think that, there is one strong similarity between all of our victims: their race and religion.
“We take this very seriously and we want the public’s help in identifying this cowardly individual who, in all three cases, ambushed their victims without warning, fired shots and killed them,” Hartsock added. .
Albuquerque’s Muslim Community Lives in Fear
The killings have put the Muslim community in the city on edge. Some are too afraid to go to mosques, run errands or sit outside, according to Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
Assed said he is now also one of the many Muslims in New Mexico who struggle with fear every day.
“I get in the car and look every way I can. I look at my side mirror. I look in the back. I watch for signs of something unusual,” he said.
The city is now increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim schools and the University of New Mexico. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also announced to send additional state police to Albuquerque.
“We have additional police patrols at every mosque during prayer time. We deliver meals to people who are afraid to leave their homes. We provide trauma services for people, including in their homes or mosques for what they’re going through,” Keller said. . “Right now these are very, very difficult times for this community and our city.”
Who were the victims?
Naeem Hussain immigrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 — fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim — and had just become a U.S. 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 on the planning team for the city of Española. According to a press release from the mayor, he had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before earning both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico.
“Mohammed was gentle and kind and had a quick smile,” said Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil. “He was highly respected and loved by his colleagues and members of the community.”
Few details have been released about the other two victims.