New Mexico police are investigating the murders of four men in recent months and have reportedly said there is a “strong possibility” the men were targeted because they were of Muslim or South Asian descent.
The deaths occurred in quick succession.
On July 26, Aftab Hussein, 41, a cafe worker and member of Albuquerque’s large Afghan community, was he was found dead of gunfire on July 26 near the city’s international district.
Two weeks later, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan and worked as a planning director for the city of Española, was also he was found dead of shootings in Albuquerque.
Then on Friday, it was Naeem Hussain was shot to death in the parking lot of an Albuquerque NGO that offers services to refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
Mr Hussain, who is from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has no apparent relation to Muhammad Hussain, had attended the funerals of two other slain men on the day of his murder.
“Now, people are starting to panic,” said Tahir Gauba, director of public relations for the Islamic Center of New Mexico. Albuquerque Journal. “I mean especially right after the funeral, on the same day, this thing happened again. So it’s really crazy.”
Police believe the killings may be linked to the death of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, who was shot behind the halal market he owned with his brother in November.
“There is a strong commonality in all of our victims — their race and their religion,” Albuquerque Police Deputy Chief Kyle Hartsock said this week during a press briefing, according to Reuters.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is is said to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of those involved in the murder. Albuquerque police are offering a $15,000 reward, according to NPR.
Officials asked community members of all backgrounds to work together and find an end to the killing.
“This is something that affects all of us,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez said during a news conference Saturday. “Every member of this community needs to stand up.”
The city’s Office of Justice and Integration released information about the killings in Arabic, Farsi, Dari and Urdu on Saturday and asked for the community’s help in catching the killer or killers.
“We urge our entire Albuquerque interfaith community and all the people of Albuquerque to help law enforcement identify and arrest the person or persons responsible,” Michelle Melendez, who heads the office, said during information. “Please, please, call for any information.”
Local leaders condemned the violence. Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, he said The New York Times: “We are incredibly sickened by the idea that someone has such hatred against innocent people. We fear for our families, we fear for our children. And we’re incredibly confused as to why this is happening.”
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Saturday on Twitter that the killings were “deeply outraged and completely intolerable” and vowed to “do everything we can to support the Muslim community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico in this difficult time.” period”.
“You are New Mexicans, you are welcome here and we stand by you,” he added.
Local police, as well as the FBI. New Mexico State Police? Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office? Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. and the US Marshals Service are all assisting in the investigation.
“In addition to our investigations into this homicide, we are devoting resources to key patrol areas and neighborhoods within Albuquerque,” said APD Chief Harold Medina. he said on Saturday. “We dropped the overtime caps for our officers so we can utilize several of our specialized units to ensure a strong Albuquerque officer presence to keep the community safe.”
According to the most recent federal figures, there were 55 reported hate crime incidents in 2020, up from 50 in 2019, incidents disproportionately targeted African Americans.