‘Who is next?’ Fear spreads in US Muslim community amid killings

A string of killings in the US state of New Mexico have sent shockwaves through Muslim communities across the US.

Muhammad Afzaal Hussain
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old Muslim man, was killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on August 1. He is the fourth victim in a string of killings that have caused unease in Muslim communities across the US [City of Espanola via AP]

A series of killings of Muslim men in New Mexico has sent a wave of fear through Muslim communities across the United States.

Authorities identified the fourth victim on Monday, and have not ruled out the possibility that the murders of several Muslim men in the city of Albuquerque could be linked.

Three of the killings happened in the last week, and authorities have said that the race and religion of the victims were common factors. “Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” police said. Police have asked residents to help find a vehicle they believe is connected to the killings.

“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” Biden said on Twitter on Sunday. “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.”

Naeem Hussain was killed Friday night, and ambush shootings have killed three other Muslim men in the last nine months. The murders have become a source of fear for Muslims throughout the US, who have faced racism, discrimination, and violence.

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

Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came shortly after those of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.

The earliest case took place in November and involved the killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.

Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, said the community was “completely shocked” by the killings, and Islamic community centres have increased security.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has said that Muslim communities in the US will respond to the killings with “vigilance, increased caution, resilience”.

CAIR has offered a $10,000 reward to the person who provides information to law enforcement leading to the arrest of the killer.

The same vehicle is suspected of being used in all four homicides — a dark grey or silver four-door Volkswagen that appears to be a Jetta or Passat with tinted windows, according to police. Authorities released photos asking people to help identify the car and offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

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

The state’s governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement on August 6 that additional law enforcement resources were being made available for the investigation.

“We will not stop in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families and are bringing every resource to bear to apprehend the killer or killers,” the statement said. “And we WILL find them.”

Lujan Grisham also offered support to the state’s Muslim community. “We will continue to do everything we can to support the Muslim community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico during this difficult time,” she said. “You are New Mexicans, you are welcomed here, and we stand with you.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies