'Vehicle of interest' sought in slayings of 4 Muslim men in New Mexico

·2 min read

Authorities said Sunday that they are seeking information about a "vehicle of interest" in connection with the slayings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since November.

Albuquerque Deputy Police Chief Cecily Barker said law enforcement is looking for a metallic charcoal or dark gray late-model Volkswagen Jetta from central New Mexico.

Mayor Tim Keller said before he introduced Barker: "We have a very, very strong lead. We have a vehicle of interest."

A flyer from Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers asks for the public's help identifying a car authorities say may be linked to the shooting deaths of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, N.M.  (Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers)
A flyer from Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers asks for the public's help identifying a car authorities say may be linked to the shooting deaths of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, N.M. (Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers)

Barker did not say exactly what might tie such a car to the case. It appeared the vehicle was recorded on security video near one or more of the crime scenes.

A flyer asking for information about the car said it was seen near "recent homicides of four Muslim men." The vehicle appears to be a sixth-generation Jetta, sold in North America from 2011 to 2018. The model was sold in "platinum gray metallic," one of eight factory colors available.

The Volkswagen, Barker said, had tinted windows and possibly light body damage.

Keller said authorities do not know who owns or operates the sedan or exactly where it is registered. Barker asked anyone with information about a vehicle fitting that description to call Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers.

Police say that the attacks may be related and that the victims were likely to have been targeted. They have not said the motive was hate.

The latest fatal shooting happened just before midnight Friday on the edge of a community known as the International District, southeast of downtown, police said.

The victim was identified as Naeem Hussain, who authorities said was Muslim and South Asian. NBC News was not able to immediately confirm his age.

Altaf Hussain cries over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein at Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque, N.M., on Aug. 5, 2022. (Chancey Bush / AP)
Altaf Hussain cries over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein at Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque, N.M., on Aug. 5, 2022. (Chancey Bush / AP)

The first attack that could be connected to the violence happened Nov. 7. The body of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, was found in a parking lot behind the halal meat business he ran with his brother.

The two other homicides were the killing of Pakistani immigrant Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26 and the slaying Monday of Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, near the University of New Mexico, authorities said.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden expressed displeasure over the possibility the violence could be driven by deep dislike of the victims' freedom to worship.

"I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque," Biden tweeted. "While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community."

He added, "These hateful attacks have no place in America."

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, state police, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham saying Saturday that she had ordered more state officers to the city to assist.

Keller said at Sunday’s news conference, "I know that together we all condemn the senseless killings."