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'Targeted killings' of Muslim residents rock New Mexico community

Three Muslim men have been killed within two weeks, as police investigate a link between the murders
Pictured left to right are Mohammad Ahmadi, Naeem Hussain, Muhammad A Hussain, and Aftab Hussein. The four Muslim men have all been killed within a year, three in the last two weeks alone (Albuquerque Police Department)

The murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have sent shockwaves throughout the Muslim community, with police investigating a potential link between the killings.

The latest victim, 25-year-old Naeem Hussain, was gunned down on Friday night, shortly after attending funeral services for two other victims - Aftab Hussein, 41, fatally shot on 26 July and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, fatally shot on 1 August. All three men are of South Asian descent and Muslim.

Police believe the killings could be linked to the November 2021 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim man from Afghanistan, who was ambushed outside a halal supermarket and cafe in Albuquerque.

The victims were all "ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed", said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of Albuquerque Police Department's criminal investigations division.

'Targeted killings'

Police have so far refrained from calling the murders hate crimes, but Arizona Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has characterised them as "targeted killings of Muslim residents".

On Monday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said, ”in my opinion, clearly it is hate-driven”.

"They are obviously targeting Muslim men, and they are happening right here in our own refugee community," Keller said in a CNN interview.

"We know that folks in our community, in the Muslim community especially, they are afraid to even leave their house, especially at night. They are afraid to pray. They are afraid to go to school,” he added.

The Albuquerque area is home to around 3,000-5,000 Muslims who make up about 85 percent of the entire state's Muslim population.

The brutal killings have torn through the tight-knit community. The three latest victims attended the same mosque, according to Tahir Gauba, a spokesperson for the Islamic Center of New Mexico.

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Naeem Hussain, who was gunned down on Friday night, arrived in the US as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016, fleeing persecution as a minority Shia Muslim. He became a US citizen just last month, according to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami.

"He was the most generous, kind, giving, patient, and down-to-earth person that I could ever meet," said Shahalami.

"He was very hardworking. He shared whatever he made with his family back home.”

Naeem Hussain had started his own trucking business this year, and intended to bring his wife to the US from Pakistan, Shahalami said.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, who was killed on 1 August, worked as the planning and land use director for the city of Espanola, New Mexico, and has been described as a diligent and committed public servant.

He also worked on the campaign team of Representative Melanie Ann Stansbury. Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, the congresswoman described him as “a kind, funny, brilliant, amazing young man from Pakistan who came to the United States to pursue his career and his life’s dream and to study at the University of New Mexico".

The Albuquerque Police Department is asking the public for help. They have released a photo of a "vehicle of interest” believed to be a Volkswagen Jetta that could have been used in the killings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation.

On Friday, The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest nonprofit Muslim civil rights group in the country, announced a $10,000 reward to anyone who could provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer(s).