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USA: Afghan immigrant Muhammad Syed arrested in Albuquerque for murder of four Muslim men, police probing Shia-Sunni angle

Md Syed might have killed two of the four victims because he was angry as his daughter had married a Shiite Muslim man.

An Afghanistan-origin person has been arrested in New Mexico in the USA as the prime suspect in the murder of four Muslim men in recent times. On August 9, Harold Medina, Police Chief in Albuquerque in New Mexico, said in a tweet that the Police have arrested and charged a 51-year-old man identified as Muhammad Syed, for allegedly killing four Muslim men. The killings took place between November 2021 and August 2022. While the first murder took place in November last year, the other three victims were killed in just two weeks.

In a press release, the Albuquerque Police said that after detaining Syed, an immigrant from Afghanistan, they checked his vehicle and home which led to “additional evidence that further tied Syed to the murders”. It was revealed that Syed knew the victims and the killing could have happened because of interpersonal conflict between him and the victims.

While the motive of the murders is still not known, police said that they are investigating a possible Sunni-Shia conflict in the case. Reportedly, Syed is a Sunni Muslim and all four victims belong to the Shia sect. Some of the victims attended the same mosque.

According to New York Times report, Syed might have killed two of the four victims because he was angry as his daughter had married a Shiite Muslim man. According to the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico Ahmad Assed, at least three of the murdered victims attended the mosque. He said the authorities were looking into the possibility of the murderer being a Sunni Muslim who might have got irked by a marriage to a Shiite Muslim. The Police had refused to comment on it suggesting they were aware of the conflict but were not sure it was the sole motive.

Ahmad Assed, the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, a mosque that at least three of the victims had attended, said he understood that the authorities were looking at the possibility that the suspect was a Sunni Muslim who may have been motivated by resentment over marriage to a Shiite Muslim.

Medina refused to label the killings as either hate crimes or serial killings suggesting it would be irresponsible to assert anything without completing the investigation as labelling would drive more fear into the community. He said, “We still don’t have any indication that either of these topics or labels would’ve been appropriate.”

The investigating officers found shell casings of bullets at the crime scenes and were able to connect them to the gun discovered during the overnight search at Syed’s house. So far, he has been charged in connection with the murder of 41-year-old Aftab Hussein, who was killed on July 26 and 27-year-old Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, who was killed on August 1. Furthermore, the investigating officers are working on finding more evidence to charge him with the murder of 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi, who was killed in November 2021 and Naeem Hussain, who was killed on August 5.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez said that his office is working with the federal partners to see if there is any possibility to book him under federal charges in case there is an appropriate federal statute.

Though Police did not provide any information on how the crime happened, they did point out that three of the four victims Aftab, Afzaal and Ahmadi were ambushed without warning. Notably, community members had organized a somber Friday prayer followed by a funeral for two of the victims. Hours after attending the service, Naeem Hussain was found dead. Earlier, it was reported that the Police have not been able to definitively connect all four crimes and they are looking for more evidence that may point towards it.

Deputy commander of the city police department’s criminal investigations division Kyle Hartsock said that it was deeply disturbing that all the victims were Muslims of similar descent. A $20,000 reward was announced by the Police for leads that could result in the arrest or arrests of the accused.

Details about the murders

The three men who were killed in July and August were from Pakistan. The shootings drew investigating officers’ attention to an unsolved murder of an Afghan man in November 2021.

On August 5, Naeem Hussain was found shot dead in the area of Truman Street and Grand Avenue. He had attended the funeral of two of the victims on the same day and had expressed concerns about the shooting as told by a spokesperson of Albuquerque mosque. Hussain was a refugee from Pakistan who had fled the country in 2016 to save himself from persecution as a Shia Muslim. He was granted US citizenship last month. He owned a trucking business.

On August 1, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was found shot dead on a sidewalk around 9:19 PM in the area of Cornell Street and Lead Avenue. Hussain had worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He was a Law and Human Resource Management graduate from the University of Punjab in Pakistan. Later he gained a PG degree in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico.

On July 26, Aftab Hussain was found shot dead in the 400 block of Rhode Island at 10:30 PM.

Following the August 1 shooting, the Police started looking if they were connected to the murder that had happened on November 7, 2021, where Mohammad Ahmadi was found shot dead in the parking lot behind a business that Ahmadi and his brother ran.

Fake news peddlers blamed Hindus for the murders

While the New Mexico Police arrested an Afghani Muslim for the murders, fake news peddler and anti-Hindu propagandist CJ Werleman blamed Hindus for the murders. He said, “Muslims, particularly Pakistani Muslims, are being targeted for assassination in New Mexico. The perpetrator is most likely a white supremacist but would not be surprised if we learn he/she is a Hindu nationalist.”

Werleman has a long history of publishing anti-India and anti-Hindu posts on social media. His account was recently withheld in India following a legal demand from the Government of India.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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