Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Muslim community has been swept with fear after not one but four Muslim men have been found murdered. A 25-year-old man identified as Naeem Hussain is the latest victim of what police are calling “targeted killings.” Hussain was allegedly murdered on Aug. 5. His body was found in his car by friends. According to NBC News, hours before his death, he had attended the funeral service of two other Muslim men killed in the community.
Those two men, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, were also shot and killed in a similar way to how Hussain was found. The two men were killed within a two-week span. But the list of murders doesn’t end there: Months before Hussein was reportedly killed in July, another Muslim man, Mohammad Ahmadi, was also murdered in Alburquerque in November 2021. That man too was shot and killed. He is being referred to as the first of the four victims.
All four men were of South Asian descent, and at least three of the four men killed attended the same mosque.
“It’s devastating,” Hussain’s brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami, told TODAYon Monday. “I just don’t believe it. I’m waiting for a phone call from him or something, just to hear his voice one more time. And then being shot in a brutal manner, it’s just the most un-American thing to do to anybody. And the most inhumane thing to do to anybody.”
As of Sunday, authorities said they can’t call the shootings hate crimes because they have not identified a suspect nor determined a motive.
But while a motive has not been found, Albuquerque detectives have “determined there is a connection” between the two earlier killings and suspect that the latest “may be linked,” police said in a statement on Saturday, The Washington Post reported.
“While we are still sifting through all the evidence to look for more connections, it is deeply troubling that these three men were Muslim and of similar descent,” said Deputy Commander of Albuquerque Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division Kyle Hartsock.
Albuquerque police also noted that the three earlier killings were done in a similar fashion, “ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” the Associated Press reported. However, at a news conference on Saturday, police declined to comment on whether Friday’s killing followed the same pattern.
Officials released a photo of a “vehicle of interest,” noting it appears to be a Volkswagen Jetta.
While the authorities are being careful about labeling the attacks as “hate” at the moment, this isn’t the first incident of hate the Islamic Center of New Mexico has faced. Last year, a woman set three fires on the mosque playground and one fire at the mosque’s main entry, Daily Kos reported.
While no one was injured, the community expressed fear for their safety. These incidents have only furthered the feeling of “hopelessness and despair” community members have felt, Ahmad Ahmad Assed, the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told The New York Times.
In a statement Saturday, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it is offering $10,000 for information “leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.”
The organization called on the Biden administration to “take a direct role” in the matter.
“The lives of Albuquerque Muslims are in danger,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement Saturday. “Whoever is responsible for this horrific, hateful shooting spree must be identified and stopped — now.”
Several lawmakers have spoken about the string of murders and called for action.
“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” President Joe Biden said in a message on Twitter. “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.”
According to TODAY, in efforts to support the Muslim community, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday that he is arranging for meals to be delivered to members of the Muslim community who are too afraid to leave their homes for groceries.
“Everyone is scared,” Ahmadi’s brother, Sharief Hadi, told TODAY on Monday. “They say we are not safe anymore. Some people, they already want to leave the city.”