Taos, New Mexico: New Mexico police on Tuesday detained a man whom they said is their primary suspect in the fatal shootings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque since November, a series of killings that have shaken the Islamic community in the state’s largest city.
Police tracked down the vehicle suspected of being used in the murders and apprehended the suspect, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina wrote on Twitter. The latest killing involved a man who was gunned down on Friday night.
“The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders,” Medina wrote. He said police would hold a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
Albuquerque and state authorities have been working to provide extra police presence at mosques during prayer times as the investigation proceeded in the city, home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of a total population of 565,000.
The ambush-style shootings of the men, who were of Pakistani or Afghan descent, has terrified Albuquerque’s Muslim community.
Families went into hiding in their homes, and some Pakistani students at the University of New Mexico left town out of fear.
The first of the killings occurred in November. Three other men were killed over the past two weeks.
The last three victims shared the name Hussain or Hussein, leading victims families to believe the killer had racially profiled the men.
One of the victims was Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, who worked as the city’s planning director. His brother Imtiaz Hussain said news of the arrest reassured many in the Muslim community.
“My kids asked me, ‘Can we sit on our balcony now?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘Can we go out and play now?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’” he said.
Some of the murdered men attended the Islamic Center of New Mexico, Albuquerque’s largest mosque, which declined immediate comment on news that a suspect had been detained.
Three of the victims were shot near Central Avenue in southeast Albuquerque. Naeem Hussain, 25, a truck driver who became a US citizen on July 8, was killed on Friday, hours after attending the burial of two other victims — Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41 — who were killed on Aug. 1 and July 26, respectively.
Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, was killed on Nov. 7, 2021, while smoking a cigarette outside a grocery store and cafe that he ran with his brother in the southeast part of the city.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller thanked local, state and federal law enforcement for their work on the case.
“We hope their swift action brings an increased sense of safety for so many who are experiencing fear from the recent shootings,” he said in a statement.
The manner in which the victims were killed suggested to relatives that the murders were hate crimes.
“There is some extreme hatred in the mind of the shooter,” said Hussain.