Muslim communities fearful after 4 murders in Albuquerque

First was the murder of a Muslim from Afghanistan late last year. Then came two more murders in the last two weeks: men from Pakistan who attended the same mosque in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Those deaths were followed Friday by the fourth killing of a Muslim man in the city in nine months. Together, the murders have sent ripples of fear through Islamic communities in New Mexico and beyond and fueled a race to find who is responsible.

On Monday, authorities identified the latest victim while seeking help searching for a vehicle believed to be linked to the slayings. The common elements were the race and religion of the victims, authorities said.

Naeem Hussain was killed on Friday night and the other three men were killed in an ambush. Police in New Mexico’s largest city are trying to determine if the deaths are related.

“The fact that the suspect is still at large is terrifying,” said Debbie Almontaser, a leader of the Muslim community in New York. wrote on Twitter. “Who is the next one?!”

In a phone interview, Almontaser said a friend who lives in Michigan and wears a hijab shared with her over the weekend how upset she was. “She says, ‘This is so scary. I’m so scared. I travel alone,’” Almontaser said.

Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came a few days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, also Pakistanis and members of the same mosque.

The first case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, of Afghanistan.

Aneela Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community reeling from the killings, their grief compounded by confusion and fear of what may follow.

“We are completely shocked and we are still trying to understand and understand what happened, how and why,” he said.

Some people have avoided going out unless “absolutely necessary,” and some Muslim college students have been wondering if it’s safe to stay in the city, he said. The center has also beefed up its security.

Police said the same vehicle is suspected to have been used in all four slayings: a dark gray or silver four-door Volkswagen that appears to be a Jetta or Passat with dark tinted windows. Authorities released photos hoping people could help identify the car and offered a US$20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Investigators did not say where the footage was taken or what led them to suspect the car was involved in the killings. Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in an email Monday that the agency received information about the car but did not elaborate.

“We have a very, very strong bond,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday. “We have a vehicle of interest… We need to find this vehicle.”

Gallegos said he couldn’t comment on what type of weapon was used in the shootings or whether police know how many suspects were involved in the violence.

President Joe Biden said he was “angry and saddened” by the killings and that his administration “strongly supports the Muslim community.”

“These hateful attacks have no place in America,” Biden said in a tweet on Sunday.

The conversation about security has also dominated the WhatsApp and email groups in which Almontaser is found.

“What we have seen happen in New Mexico is very chilling to us as a minority Muslim community in the United States that has endured so much backlash and discrimination” since the 9/11 attacks, he said. “It’s frightening”.

Few anti-Muslim hate crimes have been recorded in Albuquerque over the past five years, according to FBI data cited by Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a professor of criminal justice at California State University in California. Saint Bernardine. .

From 2017 to 2020, there was one anti-Muslim hate crime per year. The highest recent number was in 2016, when Albuquerque police recorded six of a total of 25 hate crimes.

That largely follows national trends, which hit the lowest numbers in a decade in 2020, only to rise by 45 percent in 2021 in a dozen cities and states, Levin said.

Albuquerque authorities say they can’t determine whether the killings were hate crimes until they’ve identified a suspect and a motive.

Louis Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said bias killings are often carried out by a small group of people, usually young white men. A lone perpetrator is rare.

“These are basically total losers on every dimension, whether it’s social, economic, psychological, whatever,” he said. “They are filled with hate for one reason or another and target a particular group that they see, in their mind, as being to blame for all their problems in life.”

It was unclear if the victims knew their attacker or attackers.

The most recent victim was found dead after police received a call of a shooting. Authorities declined to say whether the killing was carried out in a similar way to the other deaths.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain had worked as a field organizer for a local congresswoman’s campaign.

Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury released a statement praising him as “one of the kindest, most hard-working people” she has ever met. She said the urban planner was “committed to making our public spaces work for all people and cleaning up legacy pollution.”

As land use director for the city of Española, more than 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Albuquerque, Hussain worked to improve conditions and inclusion for disadvantaged minorities, the mayor’s office said.

___


Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Fam from Winter Park, Florida. Associated Press writer Lindsay Whitehurst in Washington and AP news researchers Rhonda Shafner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.


Leave a Comment