Muslim advocate: Biden should devote more aid to solving New Mexico killings

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Adolphe Pierre-Louis/AP</span>
Photograph: Adolphe Pierre-Louis/AP

The White House needs to devote more resources to finding and catching the person or people behind the killings of four Muslim men in New Mexico which local law enforcement officials have linked together, the head of one of America’s leading Muslim civil rights groups has said.

The four victims include Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, and most recently, Nayeem Hossain, 25, who was shot and killed after attending the funerals of the two victims that preceded him last Friday.

A portrait of a Muslim man in front of flags.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, a planning and land use director, is one of four victims in a series of killings of Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photograph: AP

The brutal murders in Albuquerque have prompted national outcry. Government officials from the New Mexico governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, to Joe Biden have offered swift condemnation of the crimes and prayers as law enforcement raised the possibility that a serial killer is at work targeting members of the Muslim community.

But according to the Council on American Islamic Relations’ executive director, Nihad Awad, action so far from the White House has been not nearly enough. Awad said more resources were needed from law enforcement, especially federally.

“Look, we appreciate the president’s prayers, but we need more resources from the president. The president should channel more resources to stop this insanity from continuing and to make sure that the community is safe and that this perpetrator is brought to justice immediately. I believe he can mobilize more federal resources to put an end to this, in addition to his prayers,” Awad said.

Awad said local Islamic leadership and law enforcement began to suspect the murderers were not isolated incidents quickly.

“When it happened last November unfortunately, a community member who was a store owner was gunned down and it was tragic. Then, the second murder just made all of us anxious that now this is the second murder within less than one year. But when the third one happened within a short time, and the fourth one, you know, it doesn’t take a great mind to connect the dots. It’s in your face, it’s right there,” he said.

Biden has condemned the killings by saying “these hateful attacks have no place in America” and a major manhunt has been launched. Grisham has sent more state police to reinforce Albuquerque officers as well as some FBI agents.

But Awad said the Muslim community in Albuquerque was living in fear as the killer or killers remain at large. Police have circulated a picture of a grey or silver Volkswagen and asked for help identifying it. But – publicly at least – that is the only major clue so far to the murderer’s whereabouts.

A man kneels down, crying, in a cemetery surrounded by other mourners.
Altaf Hussain cries over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein at Fairview Memorial Park on 5 August. Photograph: Chancey Bush/AP

In New Mexico, hate crimes targeting race and religion have the highest number of victims among other kinds of hate crimes reported in the state and Awad said that families that frequented the Islamic Center of New Mexico are now shutting themselves inside their homes for fear they could be the killer’s next victim.

“I have been in touch with the local leadership there, and they wish that more manpower is provided. And hopefully, the federal government and the FBI will afford the state more resources to bring the suspect or suspects to justice immediately,” Awad said.

Awad said refugee and immigrant Muslims in the area are most vulnerable, often wearing cultural clothing like kaftans, burqas or shalwars that visibly identifies them as Muslim.

“This is crazy. It has to stop. People’s lives are in danger. And many, many families and individuals do not go out now, even to buy food, for their safety or the safety of their children. For the entire community, life is really being put on hold because they’re scared for their lives or the lives of their loved ones. And they don’t know who’s going to be targeted next,” he added.

Crimestoppers and Cair are offering a combined reward of $30,000 in hopes to incentivize locals to engage in the search for those behind the murders and expedite their arrest.

“We’re relieved that there are some leads and there is a car of interest, I think that lead should be followed. And we urge those who know that car, or know whom it belongs to, to help save lives and also be rewarded for their heroic act,” Awad said.