Suspect in Albuquerque Muslim killings denies involvement

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The fear of attacks that had spread through Muslim communities across the country after the fatal shooting of four men in Albuquerque, New Mexico gave way to shock and sadness when he found that the suspect in the murders was himself a Muslim.

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Muhammad Syed, 51, of Albuquerque, was arrested Monday after a traffic stop more than 100 miles from his home in Albuquerque. The Afghan immigrant has denied any connection to the crimes that rocked the city and its small Muslim community.

In court documents, in fact, he told police he was so pissed off about the murders that he was traveling to Houston to find a new home for his family.

But investigators say they have plenty of evidence to prove his guilt, although they haven’t yet uncovered the motive. The first ambush shooting took place in November and was followed by three more between July 26 and August 5.

According to the criminal complaint, police determined that casings found in Syed’s vehicle matched the caliber of guns allegedly used in two of the murders and that casings found at the crime scenes were linked to guns found at Syed’s home. Syed and in his vehicle.

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Of the more than 200 tips received by police, it was that of the Muslim community that led them to the Syed family, authorities said, noting that Syed knew the victims and that “an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting”.

News of Syed’s arrest stunned Muslims in Albuquerque.

“I wanted a bit of closure for the community because we saw this spiraling out of control and people were really freaking out, but, I’ll be honest with you, I was shocked,” said Samia Assed, a community organizer and member. of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.

“I was angry, frustrated,” Assed said, adding that she didn’t want “these heinous crimes to be used in any way to divide a community.” But she also said the Muslim community in New Mexico is “going to have a more united front.”

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Prosecutors filed a motion on Wednesday to hold Syed without bond pending trial. “He is a very dangerous person, and the only way to protect the community is to keep the accused in custody,” they said.

Authorities seized a 9mm handgun from his vehicle and found an AK-47 type rifle and a pistol of the same caliber at the family home while he was serving a search warrant, according to court documents, which show that the guns were purchased legally last month. Syed purchased the rifle and his son Shaheen Syed purchased the gun from a local gun shop.

Shaheen Syed was charged by federal prosecutors on Wednesday with providing a false address in Florida when he purchased two guns last year. He has denied any role in the murders and has not been charged in connection with them.

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Muhammad Syed has lived in the United States for about five years, police said. When questioned by detectives, Syed spoke through a Pashtun interpreter and said he served with special forces in Afghanistan and fought against the Taliban, according to the criminal complaint.

Police say they are investigating a number of possible motives. When asked at a press conference on Tuesday if Syed, a Sunni Muslim, was angry that his daughter had married a Shia Muslim, the deputy police commander. Kyle Hartsock did not respond directly. He said “the motivations are still fully explored to understand what they are.”

Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, acknowledged on Tuesday that “there was a marriage” but cautioned against drawing any conclusions about the motivation of the suspect, who occasionally attended the center’s mosque.

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Les Actualites interviewed Syed’s daughter shortly before news broke of her arrest. She said her husband was friends with two of the men who were killed. She also acknowledged that her father was initially upset about her marriage in 2018, but has recently been more tolerant.

“My father is not a person who can kill someone,” the woman told Les actualites, which did not reveal her identity to protect her safety. “My father always talked about peace. This is why we are here in the United States. We come from Afghanistan, fighting, shooting.

In 2017, a boyfriend of Syed’s daughter reported to police that Syed, his wife and one of their sons pulled him out of a car, punching and kicking him before driving off, according to court documents. The boyfriend, who was found with a bloody nose, scratches and bruises, told police he was assaulted because they didn’t want her in a relationship with him.

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Syed was arrested in May 2018 after a fight with his wife turned violent, according to court documents. Prosecutors said both cases were later dropped after the victims declined to press charges.

Syed was also arrested in 2020 after being charged with refusing to stop for police after running a traffic light, but that case was eventually dismissed, according to court documents.

The Albuquerque killings caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who said such attacks “have no place in America.” They also sent a chill through Muslim communities across the United States. Some people questioned their safety and restricted their movements.

“There is no justification for this evil. There is no justification for taking an innocent life,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a Tuesday press conference in Washington, DC. He called the killings “deranged behavior.”

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The first case concerns the murder in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.

Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old Pakistani, was killed last Friday. His death came days after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.

Investigators consider Syed to be the prime suspect in the deaths of Naeem Hussain and Ahmadi, but have not yet filed charges in the cases.

Ehsan Chahalmi, Naeem Hussain’s brother-in-law, said he was “a generous, kind, generous, forgiving and loving soul who was taken away from us forever”.

Police said they were about to search Syed’s Albuquerque home on Monday when they saw him drive off in a Volkswagen Jetta that investigators believe was used in at least one of the murders.

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