After ambush-style shootings of three Muslim men and the recent killing of a fourth in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Muslim community in the city is on edge and fearful.
A well-liked city worker who had aspirations of a future in politics and a proud new US citizen are among the victims of a spree of police shootings say they may be related.
The killings of Mohammad Ahmadi, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, Aftab Hussein and Naeem Hussain have one obvious commonality though: They were all South Asian Muslims, according to Albuquerque police.
The three most recent killings happened within the span of two weeks, with local and national Muslim groups warning residents to remain vigilant. They’ve also put a spotlight on an unsolved homicide from November 2021.
Here’s what we know about the lives lost. CNN will continue to update this story with more details as we learn them:
Mohammad Ahmadi was shot and killed outside of a business he and his brother ran together in November 2021, according to CNN affiliate KOAT.
Ahmadi was from Afghanistan, police said.
Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain had been living with his brother, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, in the same apartment complex for almost five years and had never had any problems.
The brothers came to the US on student visas, studying at the University of New Mexico, and they would often take early morning or late night walks to the university library without any fear for their safety – until now.
Afzaal Hussain was shot, killed and found on a sidewalk on August 1, his face distorted from gunshot wounds, Imtiaz Hussain said.
“This is not a random killing,” said Imtiaz Hussain, who had to witness his brother’s wounds himself. “This is extremely motivated and extreme hatred.”
Afzaal Hussain was loved by everyone and a student leader excited for a future in politics once he gained US citizenship.
“We are in extreme fear,” Imtiaz Hussain said. “Living in this place is very painful.”
Hussain worked on the planning team for the city of Española. He had studied law and human resource management at the University of Punjab in Pakistan before receiving both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in community and regional planning from the University of New Mexico, according to a news release from Española Mayor John Ramon Vigil.
“Muhammad was soft-spoken and kind, and quick to laugh,” Vigil said in a news release last Wednesday. “He was well-respected and well-liked by his coworkers and members of the community.”
Naeem Hussain, 25, had been a US citizen for less than a month when he became the latest shooting victim found by Albuquerque police officers just before midnight Friday.
His brother-in-law Ehsan Shahalami identified Hussian to CNN Sunday and said he had migrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 – fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim.
“He had a lot of dreams and he accomplished some of them,” Shahalami said. “His others of him were cut short by this heinous act.”
Hours before his own death, Hussain attended a funeral for two of the recent victims and expressed concern about the shootings, said Tahir Gauba, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
Hussain worked as a truck driver for several years from Albuquerque, a job he took immense pride in, according to Shahalami.
“He was not even a citizen at the time but he would say, ‘This is our country, these people need us more than any other time,’ so he drove extra shifts to keep things rolling,” Shahalami said.
After becoming a US citizen, Hussain opened his own trucking business, had plans to bring over his wife from Pakistan and was interested in buying property in Virginia, according to Shahalami.
“He was the most generous, kind, giving, patient, and down-to-earth person that I could ever meet,” he said. “He was very hard working.”
Hussain wasn’t just working to support himself – he would share his earnings with family back home, Shahalami said.
After the funerals Friday, Gauba said, Hussain attended a lunch at the mosque and approached him asking if he had more information on the shootings.
“We (The Islamic Center of New Mexico) thought after burial of these two young men (on Friday), we would have closure and move on and let law enforcement investigate,” Gauba said. “Waking up Saturday morning to his (Naeem Hussain) death, the whole community just feels helpless. There’s a lot of fear.”
About 700 to 800 Muslims on Fridays attend the Islamic Center of New Mexico, the largest mosque in Albuquerque founded in the mid-1970s, according to Gauba.
Aftab Hussein was a Muslim man from Pakistan, police said.