- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris condemn the killings, including that of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, who worked as the planning and land use director in Española, and is remembered as “a good man,” and a “brilliant public servant.”
New Mexico is reeling from a string of homicides targeting Muslim men. Four men, including two Pakistani Americans, have been fatally shot over the last nine months in Albuquerque. Law enforcement officials believe that their deaths are connected and are are reportedly investigating the possibility that a serial killer is hunting Muslims in the capital city, the New York Post reported.
The most recent shooting death took place on Aug. 6. Naeem Hussain, described in local media as “a Muslim man from South Asia,” was shot dead near the Islamic Center of New Mexico. The day he was killed, Hussain had attended the funerals of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were killed earlier.
Pakistani American Hussain, who worked as the planning and land use director in Española, New Mexico, was fatally shot on Aug. 1 night near the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil told Santa Fe New Mexican that Hussain seems to have been “randomly targeted” in the “senseless act of violence.” Former Española Mayor Javier Sanchez, who hired Hussain as the planning director, told the paper that Hussain was “just a really good man.”
He had master’s and bachelor’s degrees in community and regional planning from UNM and was “well-qualified to lead the administration’s new visions for moving Española forward,” Vigil said in a statement, according to Santa Fe New Mexican. He also studied law and human resources management at the University of Punjab.
“Muhammad was soft-spoken and kind, and quick to laugh,” the mayor wrote. “He was well respected and well-liked by his coworkers and members of the community. Tuesday would have marked his first-year anniversary leading the City’s planning team. Our City staff has lost a member of our family, and we all have lost a brilliant public servant who wanted to serve and improve his community.”
A week before Hussian’s slaying, another Pakistani American man, Aftab Hussein, 41, who worked at a local cafe, was killed on July 26. Hussain and Hussein went to the same mosque, according to the New York Times.
Following those deaths, Albuquerque police had said in a statement that they were re-examining the death of Mohammad Ahmadi, who was shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021, outside of a business he co-owned with his brother. November 2021 killing in Albuquerque of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim man from Afghanistan. Mr. Ahmadi was killed outside a business he and his brother ran on San Mateo Boulevard, the police said.
“Our homicide detectives and our investigators currently believe there is a strong possibility that the same individual committed all three of these crimes,” Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of APD’s Criminal Investigations Division, said in the statement. “While we won’t go into why we think that, there’s one strong commonality in all of our victims, their race and religion.”
Hartsock added that APD Chief Harold Medina has been in touch with Albuquerque’s Muslim community. “I want to reassure our friends in the Muslim community that we are making these crimes a top priority for the department,” Chief Medina said. “I appreciate the assistance of the FBI and the District Attorney as we partner to solve these crimes.”
The killings “have prompted an outcry in Albuquerque’s close-knit Muslim community,” the New York Post report said. “Less than one percent of the two million people in New Mexico are Muslim,” the Post report added, citing data from the Pew Research Center.
The Albuquerque Police Department has created an online portal where residents can upload videos and images that may help authorities investigate the recent killings. The FBI is assisting with the investigation.
Meanwhile, the local Crime Stoppers Board voted to increase a reward for information that helps lead to an arrest from $15,000 to $20,000.
Similarly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest nonprofit Muslim civil rights group in the country, is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the killings. “We thank local, state and federal law enforcement for their ongoing work on this crisis, and we call the Biden administration to ensure that authorities have all of the resources needed to both protect the Albuquerque Muslim community and stop those responsible for these horrific crimes before they claim more innocent lives,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Devi Harris and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took to Twitter to condemn the killings. I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” Biden tweeted. “While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.
“I am deeply disturbed by the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” Harris tweeted. “As law enforcement continues to investigate these heinous attacks, we remain clear that we stand with the Muslim community in New Mexico and around our country. Hate has no place in America.”
Grisham said “the targeted killings of Muslim residents of Albuquerque is deeply angering and wholly intolerable. I am sending additional State Police officers to Albuquerque to work in close coordination with APD and the FBI to bring the killer or killers to justice – and they WILL be found.