Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have arrested the suspected killer of two Muslim men, identifying him as 51-year-old Muhammad Syed.
Syed was arrested on Tuesday after the killings of four Shia Muslims sparked nationwide alarm amongst Muslim communities in the past week.
Three men from the same mosque were fatally shot in the Albuquerque area during the past month. A fourth man was also killed last November in a case that police believe may be linked to the recent shootings.
Syed will be charged with two of those slayings: that of Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27. Both men were from Pakistan. Detectives connected those homicides using bullet casings found at the scenes. The gun used in those shootings was discovered during the overnight search of Syed’s home, police said.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina told reporters that law enforcement authorities are working with prosecutors to charge Syed with the other two murders. Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan, was killed on November 7, 2021. And Nayeem Hussain, 25, from Pakistan, was killed on Friday night.
“This has been a tough week for our community,” Medina said. “But we all pitched in to solve these crimes and protect a community that felt like it was under attack. We came together, like we always do in Albuquerque.”
U.S. media have cited a local Muslim leader as saying that authorities told him the alleged killer targeted the victims “because he was angry over his daughter marrying a Shiite Muslim.”
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Police officials on Tuesday said they were still investigating the motives but did not rule out hate crime charges against the suspect.
Detectives discovered evidence that shows the offender knew the victims to some extent and an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shootings.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed the arrest and strongly condemned the anti-Shia hatred that may have motivated the killings.
Director Nihad Awad said: “We welcome the arrest of a suspect in this horrific shooting spree and we commend law enforcement for their efforts at the local, state and federal levels. We hope the news that this violence has been brought to an end will provide the New Mexico Muslim community some sense of relief and security.
“Although we are waiting to learn more about these crimes, we are disturbed by early indications that the alleged killer may have been targeting particular members of the Shia community. If this is true, it is completely unacceptable, and we encourage law enforcement to file any appropriate hate crime charges against the suspect.
“Acts of hateful, sectarian violence against followers of the Shia tradition and any other group have no place in our communities, our country or anywhere else. American Muslims are and must be united against all forms of hateful bigotry, including anti-Shia bias.”