By Neelam Rahim
The Houston police department said they’re increasing patrols at mosques around the city and meeting with Muslim community leaders later in the week after a fourth Muslim man was killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the past nine months. Law enforcement is now trying to find a suspect’s vehicle that they believe is involved in these murders.
Officials said the common factors among these cases were the victims’ race and religion, but they cannot confirm if these were hate crimes until a suspect or motive has been identified. Still, the senseless killings have sent shockwaves through Muslim communities across the country, fearing that another Islamaphobic attack could happen in their area.
Authorities on Monday identified the most recent victim as they sought help attempting to find a vehicle believed to be connected to the slayings.
Naeem Hussain was killed Friday night, and the three other men died in ambush shootings. Police in New Mexico’s largest city is attempting to determine if the deaths are linked.
Hussain, 25, was from Pakistan. His death came just days after Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were also from Pakistan and members of the same mosque.
The earliest case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, from Afghanistan.
Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, described a community reeling from the killings, its grief compounded by confusion and fear of what may follow.
“We are just completely shocked and still trying to grasp and understand what happened, how and why,” she said.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Muslim civil rights group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has said that Muslim communities within 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 resulting in the killer’s arrest.
The exact vehicle is suspected of getting 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 assist in identifying the car and offered a $20,000 reward for information resulting in an arrest.
“We have a very, very strong link,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday. “We have a vehicle of interest … we ought to find this vehicle.”
The state’s governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said on August 6 that additional law enforcement resources were being made available for the investigation.
“We won’t stop in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their families and are bringing every resource in reality to apprehend the killer or killers,” the statement said. “And we are going to find them.”