A suspect has been arrested in the serial killing of four Muslim men in Albuquerque over the past nine months

A man considered to be the key suspect in the Albuquerque serial murders of four Muslim men has been apprehended.

All of the deceased were South Asian immigrants who were fatally shot within a five-mile radius of one another during the preceding nine months.

Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 62, Aftab Hussein, 41, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Naeem Hussain, 25 are among the victims.

No information was immediately available about the suspect, but Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced on Twitter Tuesday: ‘We tracked down the vehicle believed to be involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque.

‘The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders.’

The news was made only one day after the Albuquerque Police Department published photographs of a dark grey car that they suspected was used to transport the victims after witnesses noticed it at one of the murder locations.

Muslim inhabitants hesitated going outdoors and questioned their safety in the ‘immigrant-friendly’ city, for which the police offered a $20,000 reward for any information leading to a suspect.

It is unknown whether the unidentified suspect knew his victims or what his possible motivation was.

At 3.30pm local time, Albuquerque authorities are anticipated to release further details during a news briefing.

The most recent murder occurred on Friday, when Naeem Hussein was shot dead on the street. His passing occurred just days after the deaths of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Aftab Hussein, both of whom were Pakistani and members of the same mosque.

CNN stated that in 2016, he fled to the United States from Pakistan as a Shia Muslim refugee, escaping persecution.

Ehsan Shahalami, Hussein’s brother-in-law, said that Hussein had just become a citizen of the United States and had launched his own trucking company early this year.

He had previously served as a case manager for Lutheran Family Services, assisting Afghan refugees transferred to the United States after the departure of U.S. forces.

The New York Times claims that he was shot and died in his automobile in this parking lot.

Hussein has been regarded as a compassionate, diligent, and friendly individual.

On the day he was murdered, according to a representative from one of the local mosques, he attended the funerals of two other victims and voiced concern about the shootings.

Al Jazeera said that the Council on American Islamic Relations requested the White House last week to take a ‘direct role in reacting to this killing rampage’ Muslim-American groups and activists have subsequently called on the federal government to deploy resources to locate the perpetrator.

Sunday, President Joe Biden delivered a statement expressing his disgust and sorrow over the heinous crimes.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico, called the killings “completely abhorrent” and pledged to do all necessary to help the state’s expanding Muslim community.

She stated on Twitter on Saturday, ‘I am sending extra State Police officers to Albuquerque to work in close collaboration with APD and the FBI to bring the murderer or murders to justice, and they WILL be caught.’

The New York Times notes that in recent years, local leaders in Albuquerque have worked to reinforce the city’s reputation as a “immigrant-friendly city” by prohibiting federal immigration officers from visiting city-operated facilities and city personnel from gathering immigration status information.

There are now at least eight mosques in the area, and municipal authorities have lately increased outreach efforts by employing interpreters fluent in Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashto.

Medina said in a press conference held after Hussein’s death on Saturday, “there is cause to suspect this death is connected to those shootings.”

He said at the time that he was in close touch with the FBI and local Muslim community leaders to investigate the shooting, stressing that officers were working overtime to monitor Muslim areas and that he maintained a consistent police presence in the region.

The president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, Ahmad Assed, condemned the wave of killings in a community with between 5,000 and 10,000 Muslim residents.

‘Our community is devastated,’ Assed said. ‘We’ve never gone through anything like this before.

‘We’re in fear of the safety of our children, of our families… but the message of hope still resonates. We need to find and capture this perpetrator or perpetrators.’

‘Evil will not win. Hate will not win. And we will defeat evil and hate by working together.’

The first murder was carried out on the evening of November 7.

Mohammad Ahmadi was found outside the café he ran with his brother Sharief A. Hadi – Ariana Halal Market & Café.

The Afghan-born brothers emigrated to the United States with their father in the early 1980s: first living in Pennsylvania, then moving to New Mexico after Hadi, making a living selling gemstones, came across the region and loved it.

‘I had to travel all over, then I got to New Mexico,’ Hadi told ABP News Online. ‘I like it – the weather and the people were so nice. And I chose to stay here because of my business.’

Hadi and his brother opened the market in 2008, with Ahmadi working as a cook, specializing in traditional Afghan dishes and often catering for groups at the nearby university.

He said he left Ahmadi at the shop to finish cooking, and suspects his brother had gone out to smoke a cigarette when he was shot around 6pm.

‘I left at 5 o’clock and he had laid down in the back,’ Hadi said.

‘When I went home someone called me and said ‘Sharief what’s going on at your store?’ When I came back the police were all over.’

Hadi in January said he was baffled by the unsolved murder.

‘I don’t have anything to tell you,’ he said. ‘He is my brother. I loved him, he loved me.’

Aftab Hussein, who arrived to New Mexico in 2016, was the second Muslim man to be slain eight months later.

Hussein, a local café busser, leased a second-floor apartment with two roommates near the Mesa Verde Community Center and told them he was just engaged to a woman in Pakistan.

His friend Iftikhar Amirjan told The Albuquerque Journal that he was attempting to get his passport and other travel papers so he could fly to Pakistan and be married.

‘He was very happy. He said “I’ll go to Pakistan and get married and bring my wife here” and he said “I’ll make my life,” you know,’ Amirjan said.

‘He said “I’ll buy a house later on and have children.”

Hussein was shot in the parking lot of his apartment complex on the evening of July 26.

Since then, his terrified roommates have moved out, and Hussein’s brother has come in from the United Kingdom.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, a well-known local community activist and municipal planner, was assassinated outside of his house on July 26.

Born in Pakistan, he immigrated to the United States in 2017 to get a master’s degree in community and regional planning at the University of New Mexico. From 2019 to 2020, he served as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.

He worked on Melanie Stansbury’s campaign for Congress before accepting a position as the director of planning and land use for the city of Espaola, 90 miles north of Albuquerque.

Hussein had been commuting for the last year, but intended to relocate to Espaola.

Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, an ex-prosecutor who went to the U.S. in 2014 to finish his legal studies, had been residing with his sibling along with his two young children.

Imtiaz Hussain told The Albuquerque Journal that Afzaal Hussain walked outside at 9 p.m., presumably to phone friends or relatives in Pakistan, while he prepared supper.

Neighbors reported seeing a vehicle come up behind his brother before opening fire once, followed by four to six more times.

‘My brother — he was such a decent, lively young man, an unmarried person involved with the community, all the time helping everyone,’ Imtiaz Hussain said.

‘So what is the motive. Why did they shoot him? If he’s shot, how are we safe?

‘I want a proactive, rigorous investigation, detailed and speedy trial so that those people who want to take life for another person for nothing.

‘Maybe they were stealing his phone, I don’t know, whatever.

‘But this is life and many lives are connected to him.’

Jordan Yutzy, the Española city manager, said the team was in shock.

‘He is going to be truly missed by the city,’ Yutzy said.

‘He was very smart, very dedicated, and really cared about the community as a whole. His will be very big shoes for the city to fill.’

The University of New Mexico also said it was ‘deeply saddened to hear about the tragic and sudden loss of a cherished alumni’ who ‘was a prominent student leader and vibrant human being.’

‘Muhammad was an inspiring leader and a really special Lobo who touched so many lives,’ UNM President Garnett Stokes said. ‘It was my privilege to know and work with him.’

Stansbury tweeted: ‘As we grieve the unthinkable loss of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, law enforcement has released new information that his shooting may be linked with the deaths of Mohammad Admadi and Aftab Hussein in our community.

‘We are working closely with federal, state, and local partners to protect our Muslim, immigrant, and Middle Eastern communities and bring those responsible to justice. Our communities will not tolerate hate in any form.’

Martin Heinrich, senator for New Mexico, meanwhile, said: ‘Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was a pillar in the UNM community and an incredible force for good.

‘I’m very concerned by law enforcement reports that his murder may be linked to two other murders of Muslim men in Albuquerque. Racist, hate-fueled violence has no place in New Mexico.’

And Tim Keller, the mayor of Albuquerque, said the city will continue to ‘stand by our Muslim neighbors’.

‘While we do not have all the answers yet, what we do know is that violence against members of our community based on race or religion will not be tolerated in Albuquerque,’ he said in a statement.

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