A man believed to be a prime suspect in the serial killing of four Muslim men in Albuquerque has been arrested
All of the victims had immigrated to the United States from South Asia, and were fatally shot within a five-mile radius of each other over the past nine months.
The victims include Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 62; Aftab Hussein, 41; Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27; and Naeem Hussain, 25.
No information was immediately available about the suspect, but Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced on Twitter Tuesday: ‘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.’
The announcement comes just two days after the Albuquerque Police Department released photos of a dark gray sedan they believed were used to transport the victims after it was spotted by witnesses at one of the murder scenes.
Police offered a $20,000 reward for any information leading to a suspect.
Albuquerque officials are expected to provide more information at a news briefing later this afternoon.
Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 62, was the first Muslim man killed in Albuquerque back in November 2021
The victims of an apparent serial killer include Aftab Hussein, 41, left, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was shot near the University of New Mexico on August 1. All of the victims immigrated to the United States from South Asia, and all practice the Muslim faith
Naeem Hussein, 25, became the most recent victim when he was gunned down in the middle of the street on Friday night
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced on Tuesday that a ‘primary suspect’ has been arrested in the murder of four Muslim men
The most recent killing came on Friday, when 25-year-old Naeem Hussein was gunned down in the middle of the street. His death came just days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
He had migrated to the United States as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016, CNN reported, fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim.
Hussein had just become a United States citizen last month, his brother-in-law Ehsan Shahalami said, and he had opened his own trucking business earlier this year.
Hussein has been described as a kind, generous and hardworking person.
The day he was killed, a spokesman at one of the local mosques said, he had attended a funeral for two other victims — and had expressed his fears about the shootings.
In a news conference following his death on Saturday, Medina announced ‘there is reason to believe that this death is related to those shootings.’
He said at the time he was in constant contact with the FBI and leaders of the local Muslim community to investigate the shooting, noting officers were working overtime to patrol Muslim neighborhoods and he was keeping a police presence in the area at all times.
Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico, also spoke at the conference to condemn the string of murders.
‘Our community is devastated,’ Assed said. ‘We’ve never gone through anything like this before.
‘We’re in fear of the safety of our children, of our families… but the message of hope still resonates. We need to find and capture this perpetrator or perpetrators.’
‘Evil will not win. Hate will not win. And we will defeat evil and hate by working together.’
Police released photos on Sunday of a dark gray sedan they believed were used to transport the victims after it was spotted by witnesses at one of the murder scenes
Four Muslim men have been shot and killed within a five-mile radius of each other over the past nine months
The local Muslim community has been left shaken as they held a funeral for two of the victims on Friday, both of whom attended the same mosque
The first murder was carried out on the evening of November 7.
Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was found outside the café he ran with his brother Sharief A. Hadi – Ariana Halal Market & Café.
The Afghan-born brothers emigrated to the United States with their father in the early 1980s: first living in Pennsylvania, then moving to New Mexico after Hadi, making a living selling gemstones, came across the region and loved it.
‘I had to travel all over, then I got to New Mexico,’ Hadi told ABP News Online. ‘I like it – the weather and the people were so nice. And I chose to stay here because of my business.’
Hadi and his brother opened the market in 2008, with Ahmadi working as a cook, specializing in traditional Afghan dishes and often catering for groups at the nearby university.
Hadi said he left Ahmadi at the shop to finish cooking, and suspects his brother had gone out to smoke a cigarette when he was shot around 6pm.
‘I left at 5 o’clock and he had laid down in the back,’ Hadi said.
‘When I went home someone called me and said ‘Sharief what’s going on at your store?’ When I came back the police were all over.’
Hadi in January said he was baffled by the unsolved murder.
‘I don’t have anything to tell you,’ he said. ‘He is my brother. I loved him, he loved me.’
Aftab Hussein worked as a busser for a local cafe and was putting together travel documents so he could return to Pakistan and get married before he was killed
Eight months later, a second Muslim man was murdered: 41-year-old Aftab Hussein, who moved to New Mexico in 2016.
Working as a busser for a local café, Hussein rented a second-story apartment near the Mesa Verde Community Center with two roommates and told them he had recently got engaged to a woman back home in Pakistan.
He was working to get his passport and other travel documents together so he could go to Pakistan and get married, his friend Iftikhar Amirjan told The Albuquerque Journal.
‘He was very happy. He said “I’ll go to Pakistan and get married and bring my wife here” and he said “I’ll make my life,” you know,’ Amirjan said.
‘He said “I’ll buy a house later on and have children.”
Hussein was shot in the evening of July 26 in the parking lot of the complex where he lived.
His roommates, frightened, have since moved out, while Hussein’s brother has flown in from the United Kingdom.
The third killing was on July 26, when well-known local community organizer and city planner Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was murdered outside his home.
Born in Pakistan, he moved to the United States in 2017 to get a master’s degree in community and regional planning at the University of New Mexico and served as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association from 2019 to 2020.
He worked with Representative Melanie Stansbury’s campaign for Congress and then got a job as the planning and land use director for the city of Española, 90 miles north of Albuquerque.
Hussein had been commuting for the past year but had planned to move to Española.
Altaf Hussein sprinkles dirt over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein, who was murdered on July 28 in the parking lot of his apartment complex
Along with Hussein, the community mourned the loss of 27-year-old Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, a native of Pakistan who was an active member of the community
Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico, condemned the killings and said the community will do whatever it can to assist the FBI’s probe
His older brother, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, a former prosecutor who moved to the U.S. in 2014 to continue studying law, had been staying with his sibling, and brought his two young children with him.
Imtiaz Hussain told The Albuquerque Journal that Afzaal Hussain stepped outside around 9pm, likely to call friends or family in Pakistan, while he cooked dinner.
Neighbors reported seeing a car pull up alongside his brother as someone inside opened fire, shooting once and then four to six more times.
‘My brother — he was such a decent, lively young man, an unmarried person involved with the community, all the time helping everyone,’ Imtiaz Hussain said.
‘So what is the motive. Why did they shoot him? If he’s shot, how are we safe?
‘I want a proactive, rigorous investigation, detailed and speedy trial so that those people who want to take life for another person for nothing.
‘Maybe they were stealing his phone, I don’t know, whatever.
‘But this is life and many lives are connected to him.’
Jordan Yutzy, the Española city manager, said the team was in shock.
‘He is going to be truly missed by the city,’ Yutzy said.
‘He was very smart, very dedicated, and really cared about the community as a whole. His will be very big shoes for the city to fill.’
The University of New Mexico also said it was ‘deeply saddened to hear about the tragic and sudden loss of a cherished alumni’ who ‘was a prominent student leader and vibrant human being.’
‘Muhammad was an inspiring leader and a really special Lobo who touched so many lives,’ UNM President Garnett Stokes said. ‘It was my privilege to know and work with him.’
Stansbury tweeted: ‘As we grieve the unthinkable loss of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, law enforcement has released new information that his shooting may be linked with the deaths of Mohammad Admadi and Aftab Hussein in our community.
‘We are working closely with federal, state, and local partners to protect our Muslim, immigrant, and Middle Eastern communities and bring those responsible to justice. Our communities will not tolerate hate in any form.’
Martin Heinrich, senator for New Mexico, meanwhile, said: ‘Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was a pillar in the UNM community and an incredible force for good.
‘I’m very concerned by law enforcement reports that his murder may be linked to two other murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque. Racist, hate-fueled violence has no place in New Mexico.’
And Tim Keller, the mayor of Albuquerque, said the city will continue to ‘stand by our Muslim neighbors’.
‘While we do not have all the answers yet, what we do know is that violence against members of our community based on race or religion will not be tolerated in Albuquerque,’ he said in a statement.