Police broke through Tuesday in the murder of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and charged a man from Afghanistan — himself a Muslim — with two of the killings, afflicting the entire community. announced that it had identified him as the prime suspect in the other murders. edge.
Muhammad Saeed, 51, was taken into custody a day ago after traffic stopped more than 100 miles away, authorities said.
Three of the four ambushes have occurred in the last two weeks. Police Chief Harold Medina said it was not yet clear whether the deaths should be classified as hate crimes or serial killings, or both.
Police said investigators received information from the city’s Muslim community pointing to Saeed, who has lived in the United States for about five years.
Police were investigating possible motives, including an unspecified “interpersonal dispute.”
When asked specifically if Saeed, a Sunni Muslim, was upset that his daughter married a Shia Muslim, deputy police commander Kyle Hartsock did not directly respond. did. “The motives are still being fully explored to understand what the motives are,” he said.
Ahmad Assed, director of the Center for Islamic Studies in New Mexico, has admitted that “there was a marriage” but cautioned not to conclude on the motives of the suspect who said he “occasionally” attended the center’s mosque. .
“Knowing where we’ve been from a few days ago to today is an incredible sigh of relief that we’re breathing,” he said. rice field.”
The exact nature of the relationship between Syed and the victim and between the victims remained unclear. But police said they were still investigating how they crossed the street before the shooting.
The killing drew the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America”. They also sent shudders to Muslim communities across the United States. questioned their safety and restricted their movements.
When told about the arrest before the suspect’s identity was revealed, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussein, the brother of one of the victims, Muhammad Afzal Hussein, said he was relieved but said he was not aware of the perpetrators and motives. He said he needed to know more.
“This gives us hope that the truth will come out. We need to know why.”
It was not immediately clear if Sayid had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old man from Pakistan, was murdered on Friday night. His death came days after Muhammad Afzar Hussein, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and were members of the same mosque.
The earliest case was the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.
Said is currently being charged with the murders of Aftab Hussein and Mohammed Afzar Hussein because the bullet casings found at the scene were linked to the gun found in his home, officials said. .
Investigators believe Saeed is the prime suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussein and Ahmadi, but no charges have yet been filed in those cases.
Police said they saw him driving away in a Volkswagen Jetta while attempting to search Said’s Albuquerque home on Monday.
Officers followed him to Santa Rosa, about 110 miles east of Albuquerque, where they held him. Multiple firearms were recovered from his home and his vehicle, police said.
Said’s sons were questioned and released, officials said.
Prosecutors plan to file murder charges in state court and are considering adding a federal lawsuit, officials said.
Shiites make up the second largest branch of Islam after Sunnis.
Anila Abad, general secretary of the Islamic Center, said the two Muslim communities in New Mexico enjoy a warm bond.
“Our Shia community has always been there for us and we Sunnis have always been there for them,” she said.
Muhammad Afzar Hussein worked as a field organizer for Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury’s campaign.
“Muhammad was kind, hopeful and optimistic,” she said, calling him “a man who believes in democracy and social change and can actually build a brighter future for our communities and the world.” A city planner who believed that
Dazio reported from Los Angeles and Pham from Winter Park, Florida. LA-based AP writer Robert Jablon also contributed to this report.