CHICAGO: A 51-year-old man, Mohammed Syed, was named Tuesday as the primary suspect, and has been charged, with the shooting and killing of two of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the past 10 months.
Police said they are continuing to investigate whether Syed, himself Muslim, is connected to the other two victims in the apparent serial murder case, although no motive was released.
The possible connection between the murders surfaced on Aug. 1 after the body of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was discovered. Police determined evidence in his murder was similar to the fatal shooting of two other Muslims, Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26, 2022, and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi, 62, on Nov. 7, 2021.
“All were ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed. All of the killings appeared to be of a similar nature,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a special press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“We tracked down the vehicle believed to be involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque. The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders.”
A fourth Muslim man, Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead hours after attending an Islamic service held for Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein. Police said they are investigating if Naeem Hussain’s death is tied to the shooting of the other three.
Syed, an immigrant from Afghanistan, has had several misdemeanor arrests in New Mexico, police said, although they did not provide details of those crimes. He has lived in Albuquerque at least five years, police said.
Syed is charged with the murder of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.
“We are working with the District Attorney’s office on potential charges of murder of two other Muslim men, Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi,” Medina said, praising support that he received from the US Attorney, FBI, ATF or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even President Joe Biden.
“We knew Albuquerque would step up and someone would find and identify that vehicle for us which is exactly what happened. It is the city of Albuquerque and its residents and in particular the members of the Muslim community who stepped forward, had faith in the department and trusted us, and gave us the information needed so that we could follow through and make the arrest that we made yesterday (Monday).”
“To the Muslim community, a big thank you,” Medina said, noting he has worked with them during the past year to create an “ambassador program” to allow the city to “hear their voice.”
Syed was arrested after police released a photo of a vehicle on Sunday, Aug. 7, which they said had been identified as being used by the then unknown suspect. Medina said tips came from “members of the Muslim community” who recognized the suspect’s car, a Volkswagen Jetta. During the search of the car and Syed’s home, police said they discovered other evidence that allegedly tied him to the two murders.
“The tip was as a result of reaching out to the community. It came directly from the Muslim community and we explored it. It pointed us in the direction of the Syed family,” Medina said.
Police caught Syed while he was driving his car in Santa Rosa in southeastern Albuquerque when he was pulled over and arrested late Monday. A firearm was found in the vehicle. Police said they believe Syed knows at least one of the victims personally.
Medina emphasized they are continuing to investigate the killings of the two other Muslim victims to determine whether the suspect was involved.
Medina said he was asked repeatedly if this was a “hate crime” or a “serial” murder. He said he resisted jumping to conclusions, explaining: “We don’t have (any) indication that either of these labels or topics are appropriate.”
Rumors have been circulating in the community that the killings may have involved a family quarrel over an engagement, although the police declined to provide any details.
“Right now, we are charging only one person,” a police official stressed, adding the door has not been closed on possible accomplices who helped Syed, who was described as “the mostly likely suspect in these cases.”