51-year-old man charged over Muslim murders in US
US police on the hunt for the murderer of four Muslim men in a New Mexico town said Tuesday they arrested their “prime suspect” and charged him with two of the murders.
The killings, three of which took place in recent weeks, had sent shockwaves through the Muslim population in Albuquerque, with community leaders speaking of a growing sense of panic.
But on Tuesday, investigators said a public tip had led them to 51-year-old Afghan immigrant Muhammad Syed.
The breakthrough came after detectives asked for public help in solving the case and released a photo of a car they believe was involved in the murders of the South Asian men.
“We have located the vehicle believed to have been involved in a recent murder of a Muslim man in Albuquerque,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina wrote on Twitter.
“The driver was arrested and he is our prime suspect in the murders.”
The New York Times quoted Ahmad Assed, the president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico, as saying he had been told the suspect was a Sunni Muslim who was angry that his daughter had married a Shia Muslim.
Shias and Sunnis are the two main branches of Islam. The schism that began about 1,400 years ago over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad continues to affect relations between Muslims around the world.
Police said at a press conference they were still investigating the motive.
Tensions rose in Albuquerque after the discovery on August 5 of a body near an office providing services to refugees.
That came as police investigated the deaths of two men who had died in the past 10 days. It is these two murders that Syed is accused of.
During a search of the house by the police, a weapon was found that is believed to have been used in the murders.
The death of an Afghan man in the city in November was also investigated for a likely connection to the recent killings.
The spate of murders had shaken the nerves of the Muslim community in the city.
“Now people are starting to panic,” Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs at the Islamic Center of New Mexico, previously told the Albuquerque Journal.
US President Joe Biden weighed in this weekend and pledged unity and support.
“I am angry and saddened by the horrific murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” he said on Twitter.
“While we await a full investigation, I pray with the families of the victims, and my government strongly supports the Muslim community.
“These hateful attacks have no place in America.”