Authorities searched for clues on Monday to a possible connection between the ambush-style killings of four New Mexico Muslim men over a nine-month period.
Albuquerque homicide detectives suspect there may be a connection between the killing of a man Friday night and two other men killed over the past week in separate incidents. The two men, both from Pakistan, attended the same mosque, authorities said.
Investigators believe the same person may have committed the crimes, according to Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
“While we don’t explain why we believe this, there is a strong commonality between all of our victims: their race and religion,” Hartsock said in a statement.
The murders have left many on edge.
“It just rocked our community,” Mariam Alabdali, a representative from the Lighthouse of New Mexico Muslim Community Center in Albuquerque, told USA TODAY.
The FBI has joined the investigation to find out if the three murders could be linked to the murder of another Muslim in November.
A Volkswagen Jetta could be the clue investigators need to link the murders. They are asking for the public’s help in finding him.
Here’s what we know:
Who were the victims?
Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, was killed Nov. 7 outside the Albuquerque business he and his brother ran, authorities said. Police found Ahmadi, 62, shot dead in the back parking lot of the building.
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Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, of Pakistan were murdered in southeast Albuquerque. Hussein was killed on July 26 and Hussain on August 1. Investigators said they determined a connection between the murders.
The fourth victim, whose name has not been officially confirmed by police, was shot and killed before midnight on August 5, according to investigators. He was a Muslim man of South Asian descent in his mid-twenties.
How do authorities react to crimes?
The Albuquerque Police Department has launched an online portal for members of the public to submit photos or videos that could help detectives investigate the four Muslim murders.
Authorities are asking for the public’s help in locating a vehicle that may be linked to the murders.
Police have released photos of a dark vehicle with tinted windows that appears to be a Volkswagen Jetta. It is not known where the photos were taken or why investigators suspect he was involved in the crimes.
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Crime Stoppers is offering a $20,000 reward, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations will reward $10,000 for information leading to an arrest, according to the city of Albuquerque.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said additional state troopers will be patrolling Albuquerque in light of the killings.
Reactions to the Albuquerque killings
A “angry” and “sad” President Joe Biden said his prayers are with the families of the victims.
“My administration strongly supports the Muslim community,” Biden tweeted on Sunday. “These hateful attacks have no place in America.”
Lujan Grisham called the targeted assassinations “deeply unnerving and utterly intolerable.” Muslims living in a community they once called a safe space wonder why these killings are taking place.
Alabdali said the killings led to difficult conversations about what she and her husband would do if a gunman entered their mosque.
“(It was) a discussion we never thought we would have, but with the circumstances, we needed it,” Alabdali said. If that ever happened, her husband told her, she should run and not look back – not even for him.
“It was very upsetting,” she said.
The New Mexico Lighthouse is tightening security measures, adding a doorbell so visitors can be seen before they are allowed entry, and only opening the mosque for Friday prayers at this time.
“It’s very sad that you don’t feel safe in the place where you are supposed to worship,” Alabdali said.