CHICAGO: A 51-year-old man, Mohammed Syed, was named Tuesday as the prime suspect and 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 still investigating whether Syed, himself a Muslim, was linked to the other two victims in the apparent serial murder case, although no motive has been revealed.
The possible link between the killings surfaced on August 1 after the body of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was discovered. Police found the evidence of his murder resembled the fatal shooting of two other Muslims, Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26, 2022, and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi, 62, on November 7, 2021.
“All were ambushed, shot at and killed without warning. All of the killings appeared to be of a similar nature,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a special news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“We have located the vehicle believed to be involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque. The driver has been arrested and is our prime suspect in the murders.”
A fourth Muslim man, Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead hours after attending an Islamic service for Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein. Police said they were investigating whether Naeem Hussain’s death was linked to the shooting of the other three.
Syed, an immigrant from Afghanistan, has been arrested in New Mexico on multiple misdemeanor charges, police said, although they did not release details of those crimes. He has lived in Albuquerque for at least five years, police said.
Syed is charged with the murders of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain.
“We are working with the District Attorney’s Office on possible charges of murdering two other Muslim men, Naeem Hussain and Mohammad Amir Ahmadi,” Medina said, praising the assistance he received from the US Attorney’s Office, FBI, ATF or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco , firearms and explosives and even President Joe Biden.
“We knew Albuquerque would step in and someone would find and identify this vehicle for us, and that’s exactly what happened. It is the city of Albuquerque and its residents and particularly the members of the Muslim community who came forward, having faith in the department and trusting us and giving us the information needed to enable us to make and carry out the arrest we made yesterday (Mon ).”
“To the Muslim community, a big thank you,” Medina said, noting that he worked with them over the past year to create an “ambassador program” so the city could “hear their voice.”
Syed was arrested after police released a photo on Sunday August 7 of a vehicle they said was being used by the then-unknown suspect. Medina said the 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 uncovered other evidence allegedly linking him to the two murders.
“The tip came as a result of reaching out to the community. It came straight from the Muslim community and we explored it. It pointed us in the direction of the Syed family,” Medina said.
Police caught Syed driving his car in Santa Rosa, southeast Albuquerque, when he was pulled over and arrested late Monday. A firearm was found in the vehicle. Police said they believe Syed knew at least one of the victims personally.
Medina stressed that they are continuing to investigate the killings of the other two Muslim victims to determine if the suspect was involved.
Medina said he was repeatedly asked whether it was a “hate crime” or a “serial killing.” He said he refused to jump to conclusions, stating, “We have (no) indication that any of these labels or themes are appropriate.”
Rumors circulated in the community that the killings could have been a family dispute over an engagement, although police declined to provide details.
“Right now we’re only raising one person,” a police officer pointed out, adding that the door was not closed on possible accomplices who helped Syed, who was described as “the most likely suspect in these cases.”