Alburquerque is under the national media spotlight and the subject of intense law enforcement efforts as the result of a fourth Muslim man having been killed in what police are saying is a serial killer targeting Muslim men based on their race and religion. Three killings have occurred in the last few weeks, with a 4th having occurred last year, prompting the FBI to step in and assist with the investigation. The New Mexico State Police, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives and the US Marshals Service are also assisting in the investigation. Law enforcement authorities are searching for a vehicle that may be connected with the killings and desperately seeking leads. Panic and fear has emerged within the city’s Muslim community as city, state and national leaders react to the killings.
The four victims whose murders law enforcement say may be connected are:
Mohammad Ahmadi, 62
Mohammad Ahmadi was the first homicide that happened on November 7, 2021. In that incident, Ahmadi was killed outside of a business he and his brother ran at 1401 San Mateo Blvd. Ahmadi was a Muslim man from Afghanistan.
Aftab Hussein, 41
Aftab Hussein was the second homicide that happened on July 26, 2022 in southeast Albuquerque. Aftab Hussein was found with apparent gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Rhode Island. He later died as a result of his injuries. Aftab Hussein was from Pakistan.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, age 27
Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was the third homicide and he was killed on August 1 in southeast Albuquerque. He was found on a sidewalk in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue.Muhammad. Afzaal Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving both master’s and bachelor degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a news release. Muhammad Afzaal worked on the campaign of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury and she said this:
“He was a member of our campaign team. A kind, funny, brilliant, amazing young man from Pakistan who came to the United States to pursue his career and his life’s dream.”
Naeem Hussain, age 25.
Naeem Hussain was the fourth homicide which occurred on August 5. Naeem Hussain who was found dead by APD police officers who responded to reports of a shooting just before midnight in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue. Naeem Hussain migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016. According to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami, Hussain fleed persecution as a Shia Muslim and had just become a US citizen last month. He opened his own trucking business this year and was described as being a kind, generous and hardworking person. The day he was killed, he had attended a funeral for the two recent victims and expressed fear about the shootings, according to a spokesman with a mosque in Albuquerque.
Three of the men, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Mohammad Ahmadi, were all ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed according to APD Homicide Investigations Commander Hartsock. Police have also said that they have determined there is a connection between the two deaths.
Links to quoted news sources are here:
“VEHICLE OF INTEREST” SOUGHT; REWARD OFFERED
The FBI is assisting with the investigation. APD has not released any descriptions of a suspect or suspects in the killings. APD and the FBI have set up an online portal for residents to upload videos and images which might help authorities investigating the killings. The link to the portal is here:
Anyone with information about the vehicle can also call 505-843-STOP, go to crimestoppersnm.com, or contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
On Sunday, APD announced a lead in the investigation of the murders of the four Muslim men in Albuquerque. APD has identified a vehicle of interest and they are seeking the public’s help in finding it. The vehicle is a dark gray/silver Volkswagen Sedan with four doors and tinted windows. Police say the vehicle appears to be a Jetta. A mobile command post will be set up in the city for people to access services or provide information. APD emphasized the importance of help from the public which could be critical in cases like these.
Links to a related news storys to view the “vehicle of interest” are here:
Reward money is available for anyone that has information in this case. The local Crime Stoppers Board has voted to increase a reward for information leading to an arrest to $20,000 and there’s a $10,000 reward from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Edward Ahmed Mitchell deputy director of CAIR said people need to reach out to those in the Muslim community during this time and the Muslim community needs to take steps to be safe. Mitchell had this to say:
“We have never seen something like this, something so systematic, something happening over a long period of time, targeting multiple people with a killer who is still at large. … [We must] Be vigilant, be safe. Watch your back report anything suspicious, but carry on living your lives count confidently, boldly, publicly and fearlessly, we cannot let anti-Muslim extremists and bigots stop us from practicing our faith and living our lives. ”
The link to quoted news source is here:
On Saturday, July 6, after Friday’s killing, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will send additional state police to Albuquerque to help with the investigation. Grisham said this:
The targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable. I am sending additional State Police officers to Albuquerque to work in close coordination with APD and the FBI to bring the killer or killers to justice – and they WILL be found. I am incredibly angry about this situation. We will provide justice to the families who have lost everything. My Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community.
Mayor Tim Keller for his part had this to say:
“Albuquerque’s commitment to supporting our Muslim community cannot be broken. We remember each of the victims and the family, friends, and community who knew and loved them. We are outraged by these attacks and will not relent in our pursuit of justice for those we have lost.”
Albuquerque is home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of some 565,000 total residents. Keller also said state authorities were working to provide an “extra police presence at mosques during times of prayer” as the investigation proceeds.
Ahmed Assad, President of the Islamic Center of New Mexico at a news conference said this
“This is not the New Mexico I grew up in and love and cherish.”
The killings drew swift condemnation from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
On Sunday, August 7, President Biden tweeted:
“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris also tweeted on August 7:
“I am deeply disturbed by the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque. As law enforcement continues to investigate these heinous attacks, we remain clear that we stand with the Muslim community in New Mexico and around our country. Hate has no place in America.”
CITY’S MUSLIM COMMUNITY TAKES PRECAUTIONS
On August 7, the New York Times reported as follows:
“As the Albuquerque Police, the F.B.I. and the State Police appealed to the public for help in finding the killer or killers the attacks have left Muslims in a state of terror. One member who attended the Islamic Center of New Mexico, the same mosque as all four of the victims, said that he may never return, citing a fear of becoming “bait.”
Other members have temporarily left the state to stay with family members in other parts of the country to wait out the investigation. One man, who immigrated from Iraq, said that he felt safer back when he first came to the country in the 1980s. Another member, Salem Ansari, said that some who attend the mosque and work night shifts have quit their jobs. Ansari said this
“This situation is getting so much worse.”
Ahmad Assed, president of the mosque, said that he grew up in Albuquerque attending the Islamic Center but never felt isolated as a Muslim in the city. But now, he said, the community is going through a “sort of managed panic.”
The elder Mr. Hussain said that he had lived safely in his neighborhood for eight years since moving to the United States with his wife and children. His brother Muhammad arrived in 2017, and both men would go to the library at midnight or buy coffees late into the evening while attending the University of New Mexico as international students.
“Now, I look outside the window and think, ‘Oh, this is the place where my brother was killed. Should we move?’” he said.
Mr. Hussain said that he had initially hoped to send his brother’s body back to be buried with family in Pakistan, but the numerous gunshot wounds had made his brother unrecognizable, and Mr. Hussain did not want his family to see him. The killer “wanted to finish him — the whole nine yards,” he said.”
The link to the full quoted news source is here:
On August 8, KRQE 13 reported:
The Muslim community in Albuquerque is taking precautions to protect themselves while police continue to investigate the recent string of violence against Muslim men. Khalid Emshadi, a local engineer and physicist, who is running for the New Mexico house of representatives says he is fearful of leaving his home because of the recent killings.
Emshadi says he will be working from home until someone is in custody and is calling on his community to stay home and stay safe. “Other Muslim families here they were very terrified and very devastated because this issue rang the bell in their minds that any one of them could be the next victim for whoever is shooting Muslims,” Emshadi said. He also called for anyone with information, no matter how little, to contact law enforcement
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
This is a city and state that is historically known for embracing its ethnic and cultural diversity and welcoming immigrants. As a person whose grandparents were Italian immigrants and who is half Hispanic, who was born, raised and who has lived in Albuquerque for a lifetime, who has raised a family and who has made a living practicing law, I am extremely sickened and very angry to see what our city has become.
The never-ending saga of record-breaking homicide rates, violent crime rates, drug and property crime rates, the increasing homelessness numbers, and now targeted hate crimes, must be aggressively dealt with and stopped. Blaming the pandemic, claiming a national trend and blaming the courts and others for our crime rates has got to stop.
This is not, this must not be, who we are as a community. The expected expression of outrage by our elected officials is simply not enough. We must demand in no uncertain terms is that our elected officials, and yes our law enforcement, do a better job and hold them accountable when they make promises and then fail to keep them which is what has happened in the city for the last 8 years.