August 7, 2022 at 3:03 a.m. EDT
The tightknit Muslim community in Albuquerque was rocked by the killings of two Muslim men within a week’s span of each other this summer. After funerals were held Friday for the two men, “we thought, okay, we’re going to catch a little breather,” said Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs at the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
But later that night, another Muslim man from the community became the latest victim in a string of killings that officials suspect are linked.
Naeem Hussain had attended the funerals of Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, on Friday before heading to the center for a post-service meal, Gauba said in a phone interview. Naaem Hussain, who was in his 20s, and the other two men were “regulars” at the center, Gauba said. (Though the men share a common surname, they were not , he said.)
Naeem Hussain was found dead Friday evening shortly before midnight in the parking lot of Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, a nonprofit that provides adoption and refugee services, after police responded to reports of a shooting. The police said his identity was not yet “positively confirmed,” but Gauba said he had spoken with Naeem Hussain’s family about his death.
Albuquerque police detectives have “determined there is a connection” between the two earlier killings and suspect that the latest “may be linked,” the police said in a statement. Detectives are also probing whether the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi outside a business he ran with his brotherwas connected, the police said. (Gauba said Ahmadi was not a regular member at the center.) Naeem Hussain and Aftab Hussein were from Afghanistan but had passed through Pakistan before coming to the United States, Gauba said. Muhammed Afzaal Hussain was from Pakistan and Ahmadi was from Afghanistan, according to the police.
Albuquerque police had said the three earlier killings were done in a similar fashion — “ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” the Associated Press reported — but declined at a news conference on Saturday to say whether Friday’s killing was the same.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Albuquerque office is assisting Albuquerque police in the investigation, said Frank Fisher, a spokesman for the office.
Gauba said the string of deaths has been “horrific” for the community of about 5,000 Muslims in Albuquerque, a city of more than 560,000. “I’ve been in the United States since ’95,” Gauba said. “I’ve been through 9/11. I’ve been through the Trump era. I’ve never felt this helpless and in fear.”
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“The lives of Albuquerque Muslims are in danger,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the national deputy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Whoever is responsible for this horrific, hateful shooting spree must be identified and stopped — now.”
CAIR, which advocates for the civil rights of Muslims in the United States, said in a statement on Saturday that it was offering $10,000 for information “leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.” The organization called on the Biden administration to “take a direct role” in the matter. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Saturday.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said that “the targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable.”
“I am angered and saddened that this is happening in New Mexico, a place that prides itself on diversity of culture and thought,” she said in a statement. “This is not who we are.”
Lujan Grisham said on Twitter that she was sending state police to assist the Albuquerque police and FBI in the investigation “to bring the killer or killers to justice — and they WILL be found.” She addressed the local Muslim community: “You are New Mexicans, you are welcomed here, and we stand with you.”