Afghan man charged with murder of four Muslims in New Mexico

A 51-year-old has been identified and charged while the police investigation continues

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A Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan has been arrested as the “primary suspect” in the killings of four Muslim men, Albuquerque police said.

Muhammad Syed, 51, was arrested on Monday after a traffic stop about 160 kilometres from his home in Albuquerque. Authorities said he is being charged with the July 26 murder of Aftab Hussein and the August 1 murder of Muhammed Afzaal Hussain.

Mr Syed was identified as the main suspect in the other murders as well, police said.

“This has been a tough week for our community,” police chief Harold Medina said in a statement on Tuesday.

“But we all pitched in to solve these crimes and protect a community that felt like it was under attack.”

The Muslim community is breathing “an incredible sigh of relief,” said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Centre of New Mexico. “Lives have been turned upside down.”

Police earlier on Tuesday announced that they had tracked down the vehicle that was believed to have been involved in one of the murders.

Investigators are still piecing together the motive for the shootings, said Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock.

Mr Hartsock said sectarian animus by the suspect towards his victims may have played a role in the violence.

Muhammad Syed, who has been arrested and charged over the deaths of two Muslim men in Albuquerque. AFP Photo / Albuquerque Police Department

“But we're not really clear if that was the actual motive, or if it was part of a motive, or if there is just a bigger picture that we're missing,” he said.

Police said they found several firearms in the Syed's home.

Naeem Hussain, 25, from Pakistan, was killed on Friday night. The three other men died in what police described as “ambush shootings”.

Hussain's death came days after the killings of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were members of the same mosque.

Police said they were treating the murders as connected to the November shooting of Afghan Muslim Mohammad Ahmadi in a car park outside a halal supermarket.

Authorities on Monday had sought public help to search for a vehicle that appeared to be the one police discovered on Tuesday.

Police released images of the vehicle — a dark grey four-door Volkswagen sedan — that was used in all four homicides. They offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: August 10, 2022, 2:26 PM