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Suspect charged with murder in deaths of 2 Muslim men after string of killings

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(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- Police have arrested a suspect in connection with the murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Investigators tracked down the Volkswagen sedan with tinted windows allegedly driven by the suspect in the most recent homicide, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced during a tweet Tuesday afternoon news conference.

The car was stopped by New Mexico State Police near Santa Rosa, New Mexico -- about 115 miles east of Albuquerque -- after a tip from a community member following the release of the description of the car, Albuquerque Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock told reporters at Tuesday's news conference.

The driver of the car, identified as 51-year-old Muhammad Syed, was then detained at a traffic stop, Medina said.

The most recent murder occurred on Friday, when Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old native of Pakistan, was found dead from a gunshot wound near Truman Street and Grand Avenue in Albuquerque's Highland Business neighborhood, police said.

Syed has been charged with murder in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Aftab Hussein, Medina said, adding that investigators are working with the district attorney's office on potential charges for the murders of the other two men.

Investigators do not have any indications yet that the murders present a serial killer case or are the result of a hate crime, authorities said.

 

Syed moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan several years ago and has since been arrested multiple times for domestic violence, police said, adding that those charges were dismissed. His son was also questioned but was later released, police said.

The Albuquerque Police Department's homicide unit began noticing similarities between the murders that occurred on Friday and July 26, such as related shell casings found at both scenes that were likely fired from the same gun, Hartsock said.

After Syed was arrested, police executed a search warrant at his home, where multiple firearms were recovered and are now being tested, Hartsock said, adding that one gun found inside the home and another found inside the car match two from the crime scenes and are the basis for the charges that have been brought so far.

 

Police are compiling more evidence to build a case with the prosecutor's office for the murders of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain and Ahmadi, Hartsock said.

"We think there might be involvement in two other homicide cases," he said. "Those are still considered open and active."

 

The pattern matches the murder of Ahmadi in November, police said, adding that there is a possible personal connection between Ahmadi and Syed.

Investigators are also looking into whether there are other cases that could be similar, in order to identify whether there may be a "really active public threat" from someone targeting the community, Hartsock said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has sent additional state police to provide support to the Albuquerque Police Department and FBI, she announced on Saturday.

The community has "never gone through anything like this before," Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said during a press conference Saturday, Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT reported.

"This is really a surreal time for us. We're in fear of the safety of our children, our families," Assed said.

In a statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, commended the Albuquerque Police Department for apprehending the suspect.

"We welcome the arrest of a suspect in this horrific shooting spree and we commend law enforcement for their efforts at the local, state and federal levels," CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said. "We hope the news that this violence has been brought to an end will provide the New Mexico Muslim community some sense of relief and security."

CAIR had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the murders.

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