US Muslim men killed in New Mexico targeted for their faith: Police
The murders of three Muslim men in the US southwestern State of New Mexico's largest city in the past nine months have been described by the local police as likely linked to their faith and race.
Two members of the same mosque were shot dead in Albuquerque in the past ten days and there is a "strong possibility" their deaths are related to the murder of an Afghan immigrant back in November, said a city police official as cited in a Reuters report on Saturday.
The city police further unveiled that in all three cases victims were ambushed and shot without warning.
“There’s one strong commonality in all of our victims — their race and religion,” said Albuquerque police Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock during a press briefing on Thursday as quoted by the local daily, Santa Fe New Mexican.
“We have never felt this much fear in [our] community,” said Tahir Gauba, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of New Mexico, as quoted in the daily.
This is while the US-based Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also offered a $5,000 reward on Friday for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the hateful killings.
“If a bias-motive is determined, state and federal authorities should apply appropriate hate crime charges,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad declared in a statement.
The police identified the latest victim as Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old planning director for the city of Española who came to the US from Pakistan, saying he was shot dead on Monday outside his Albuquerque apartment complex.
That followed the murder of 41-year-old Aftab Hussein from Albuquerque's large Afghan community, who was found dead of gunshot wounds on July 26 near the city's international district, according to police.
Hartstock further stated that the most recent deaths are likely linked to the shooting death of 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi in a parking lot by a halal supermarket and cafe on November 7, 2021 without referring to his national origin.
The development comes as Muslims throughout the US and Canada have been regularly targeted by hate crimes widely attributed to media and government depiction of them as potential “terrorists,” despite official data showing that nearly 90 percent of hate crimes and terrorist attacks in the US have been perpetrated by far-right individuals mostly tied to the US military.