Brother of victim speaks out after killings targeting Muslim men across Albuquerque

In the hours and days after Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain learned that his brother had been shot dead, he struggled to understand why anyone would have charged him. He thought it might have something to do with his work in politics, but it seemed unlikely.

It wasn’t until he heard that two other Muslim men had been gunned down in the same area of ​​Albuquerque, with the same last name, just days apart, that a terrible possibility began to emerge.

“Then we thought something was happening against Muslims,” ​​he said The independent on Monday.

The ambush-style killings of four Albuquerque-area Muslim men, three of them in the past nine days, have sent shockwaves through the city’s close-knit Muslim community and beyond. Residents of the city live under a shadow of fear, some are afraid to go out to buy groceries.

The FBI and local police are now investigating the possibility that the murders are connected. But already New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has condemned what she described as “targeted killings of Muslim residents”.

While Hussain is reserving final judgment until police confirm a motive, he said everything has changed for him and his community in the past week.

“No one went to work, no one went out to buy food, people canceled their meetings. I can’t sit on my balcony. I can’t go outside my apartment. This is very painful for us, he said.

The police began to connect the dots between the murders in recent days. Aftab Hussein (41) was found with gunshot wounds in the south-east of the city on 26 July. Just days later, 27-year-old Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Mr Hussain’s younger brother, was fatally shot in the same area of ​​the city.

On Thursday, police made the shock announcement they were investigating whether the two murders were linked to the fatal shooting of Mohammad Ahmadi, a 62-year-old Muslim man from Afghanistan, on November 7, 2021.

“Our homicide detectives and our investigators believe at this time that there is a strong possibility that the same person committed all three of these crimes,” said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the Albuquerque Police Department’s investigative division.

“While we won’t go into why we believe that, there is one strong commonality in all of our victims, their race and religion,” he said, adding that all of the victims “were ambushed without warning, shot at and killed.”

Then came another murder. Just a day after that announcement, Naeem Hussain (25) was found dead with gunshot wounds in the city. On the day he was killed, he had attended a funeral for the last two victims, according to a spokesman for an Albuquerque mosque, quoted by CNN.

The only thing that connected all the victims was that they were Muslims. Three were of South Asian descent.

Despite his brother’s tragic death, Hussain said New Mexico had always been very welcoming.

“It has always been peaceful and welcoming to everyone of different nationalities, colors, religions or any kind of sexual orientation,” he said. “This society has no hatred in its roots.”

Hussain said his brother moved to the United States from Pakistan in 2017, when he was 22, to study at the University of New Mexico. He had a passion for politics and later found work on the planning team for the city of Española, New Mexico.

He described his brother as an outgoing person who loved fishing and playing cricket with his friends. He had dreams of running for Congress one day.

On the night he died, Hussain said his brother was at his house. He went out, possibly to answer a phone call, and never returned.

Hussain called his brother’s phone for hours but got no answer. Meanwhile, police cars were lined up down the street from his house, and he was getting seriously worried. He called the police, who eventually confirmed that his brother had been shot and killed. He was killed just a short distance along the road from his house.

Hussain and the wider community were already in mourning when the police announced that another Muslim man, Naeem Hussain, had been killed. The latest killing on Friday only added to the fear among Albuquerque’s Muslim community.

Aneela Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque, said The independent that the last three victims were regular visitors to the centre.

“They were wonderful people, just normal people, nothing different about them at all,” she said. “We are still shocked and trying to understand what is the motive? Because these were young men, especially the last three, were brilliant rising stars, hard workers, no enemies.”

Abad said Albuquerque has always been a welcoming and tolerant place, and that it was precisely because of that tolerance that it took so long for people to connect the dots between the murders.

“We were completely caught off guard,” she said. “This state has been one of the most welcoming, kind, diversified, more accepting of immigrants, refugees from all over the world. So it took us a while to understand and connect the dots.”

Since it became clear that the killings may be connected, the center has introduced strict new security protocols to protect worshippers, fearing that a serial killer may be on the loose.

“We have five prayers daily and for the first time ever we have provided armed security for all five prayers. And of course there is a lockdown in between. We have never done it historically, she said.

– Our centers have always been open. We have an open door policy, but with these events, no more. We are extremely careful about who comes in, she added.

It is not just the center that takes extra precautions. Abad said Muslims across the city feared the worst. She is part of a WhatsApp group with other leaders from the Muslim community and interfaith groups to quickly share information about possible threats.

“The whole dynamic has changed. Everyone is scared, she said. “I’ve asked our community to be very vigilant, look for things they didn’t notice before, look around before you go out and see if they’re being followed,” she added.

Abad said some Muslim students and faculty members from the University of New Mexico had left the state for fear they will be targeted by the killer.

“They ask questions like should we go, shouldn’t we go? Can you walk from campus to our residence or is it not safe? Should we carpool? Should we go alone? Some of them left the state and went to neighboring states to their families , she said.

Police said Sunday they were looking for a dark-colored, four-door Volkswagen, possibly a Jetta or a Passat, in connection with the killings. They are also increasing patrols in certain areas of the city, but did not specify where.

President Joe Biden said Sunday that he was angry and saddened by the brutal killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque.

“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, he said in a statement.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the city is taking steps to increase security.

“We’ve heard from the community that the fear is so strong that there’s a concern about things like groceries and getting food to certain people in certain areas of the city,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.