ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police have arrested a suspect in the investigation tied to the murder of four Muslim men. Police say 51-year-old Muhammad Syed was taken into custody last night near Santa Rosa, roughly 118 miles east of Albuquerque.

According to APD, Syed is currently being charged two of the four homicides under investigation. Those include the July 26 shooting of Aftab Hussein and the August 1 shooting of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. APD says detectives connected Syed to those two cases through bullet casings recovered at the respective crime scenes and several guns recovered in the case.

APD searched Syed’s home near Gibson and Carlisle Monday night at roughly the same time Syed was stopped off of an I-40 exit in Santa Rosa. Multiple guns were found inside Syed’s home, while another gun was found in Syed’s car, according to APD.

“A tip from the community is what helped lead us to this subject, and what helped us eventually find the car that we put out just two days ago to the public,” APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said. “Hundreds of tips have come in that have been thoroughly reviewed, dozens of interviews took place.”

As police went to serve the search warrant on Syed’s home Monday night, APD says officers observed Syed load items into the grey sedan police were seeking, then leave his home. Police then followed Syed out to Santa Rosa where he was later arrested.

During the news conference, said detectives are still investigating Syed’s possible involvement in two other shooting deaths, including the November killing of Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi and the August 5 murder of Naeem Hussain. Hartsock said, “We think there might be involvement in two other homicide cases, those are still considered open and active, but we’re working on more evidence testing and more interviews to continue to build that case with the prosecutor’s office.”

In all, APD says four Muslim men have been killed in four different shootings since November 2021. They include Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 62; Aftab Hussein, 41; Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27; and Naeem Hussain, 25.

APD remains reserved about a possible motive in the killings. In a news release, APD said “detectives discovered evidence that shows the offender knew the victims to some extent and an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting.” In a news release from the Council on American–Islamic Relations, National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said the group “strongly condemned the anti-Shia hatred that may have motivated the killings.”

Photos of the four victims, from left to right: Ahmadi, A. Hussein, M. Hussain, and N. Hussain. (Click for larger view)

“The motives are still being explored, fully, to understand what they are,” Hartsock. “We do have some information about [Shiite/Sunni] events taking place, but we’re not really clear if that was the actual motive or it was part of the motive, or if there’s just a bigger picture that we’re missing, so what’s really important is we’re still investigating it even though he is arrested today, we’re going to continue to investigative and work with our prosecutors to understand what the motives were.”

According to reporting from the New York Times, authorities are exploring possible Sunni/Shiite beliefs among Syed, his family members and the victims. APD acknowledged it has “heard those things,” responding to a question from a reporter about the motive Tuesday. Hartsock could not confirm if Syed was a Sunni Muslim when asked Tuesday.

It’s unclear if anyone else will be charged in the case. APS confirmed Tuesday that Syed’s son were questioned, then released amid the investigation Monday night.

“We’re going to follow the evidence,” Hartsock said. “If the evidence leads us to someone else that needs charges, we’ll be happy to file them with the [district attorney’s] office.”

APD says it believes Syed is from Afghanistan. The department believes he came to the U.S. “in the last several years.” APD says its officers have contacted Syed in the past for “a few minor misdemeanor arrests” including a domestic violence incident in the past four years.

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