Albuquerque police say Muslim men targeted, urge vigilance

Police in Albuquerque on Sunday urged residents to keep a lookout for a Volkswagen Jetta seen near the murders of four South Asian Muslim men over the past several months, suspecting the killings to be connected.

Detectives also urged the Muslim community to be vigilant after a young man was gunned down outside his apartment complex on Friday. His identity had not been released Sunday evening. It occurred the day after police said they suspected three murders were connected. Now there has been a fourth.

“Our city has suffered another tragic loss overnight,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said at a press conference on Saturday, according to Huffington Post. “Another young man who was part of the Muslim community was murdered. As with the previous three murders we mentioned on Thursday, there’s reason to believe this death is related to those shootings. We need to ask the Muslim community especially to be vigilant. Watch out for one another. If you see something, say something.”

Police on Sunday released photos of a vehicle they say may be connected to the shootings.

“We have a very, very strong link,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday. “We have a vehicle of interest … We have got to find this vehicle.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights and advocacy organization for the Muslim community, has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. The group also asked President Biden to take a direct role in apprehending the offenders.

Police identified one victim as Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, a planning director for the city of Española who came to the United States from Pakistan and was shot outside his apartment complex last Monday. On July 26, Aftab Hussein, 41, from Albuquerque’s sizable Afghan community, was found shot to death near the international district of the city. Before that was Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, shot last Nov. 7 in a parking lot near the halal supermarket and cafe he ran with his brother.

Police suspect the men were targeted by someone who “ambushed their victims with no warning, fired shots and killed them,” police said Thursday.

“While we won’t go into why we think [there’s a connection], there’s one strong commonality in all of our victims — their race and religion,” Albuquerque police Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock told a news conference on Thursday, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, adding that the person may well be raising some red flags. “Whoever is doing [the killings] is changing up their lifestyle, their behavior, something is more off than usual.”

As a result of these murders, detectives are now trying to determine whether the Nov. 7, 2021, murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, is also related to the more recent homicides.

Ahmadi was killed outside the business he ran with his brother, police said.

Hussain, who hailed from Pakistan and had worked for the city’s planning commission for just a year, was remembered as “a brilliant public servant who wanted to serve and improve his community,” Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil said in a statement after his death.

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes said the school, where he had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in community planning, was heartbroken at the senseless loss of “an inspiring leader.”

“Our community has been devastated, as you can imagine,” Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico, told AP. “We have never gone through anything like this before. This is really a surreal time for us.”

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