Amid a citywide homicide spike, officials believe the recent deaths of four Muslim men are connected, leading to fear in a place where many immigrants and refugees had felt at home.
ALBUQUERQUE — Tahir Gauba attended funerals on Friday for two members of Albuquerque’s largest mosque, victims in a spate of apparently targeted killings that have shaken this Southwestern city, which in recent years has welcomed a growing community of immigrants and refugees.
Afterward at the mosque, Mr. Gauba ran into Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old from Pakistan. “Naeem asked me, ‘Brother, what’s happening in Albuquerque?’” said Mr. Gauba, 43, who also came to New Mexico from Pakistan. “I told him, ‘It’s crazy right now, don’t leave your house if you don’t have to.’”
Hours later, Mr. Hussain was also dead, shot in a parking lot. It was the third killing of a Muslim man in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.
The killings, which law enforcement officials believe are connected, have raised alarm in a city that the authorities had sought to shape into a haven for immigrants and refugees, including hundreds who resettled from Afghanistan in the past year, since the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence there.
The possibility that someone could now be targeting Muslims, in a city already reeling from a harrowing spike in murders, has many in Albuquerque asking how this could happen.
One of the victims, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, moved from Pakistan to attend the University of New Mexico. He had become president of its graduate student association before going into city planning. Another, Aftab Hussein, 41, worked at a local cafe.
Naeem Hussain, the 25-year-old who was killed on Friday, had started his own trucking business and become a U.S. citizen just weeks earlier. The recent killings were preceded by the fatal shooting in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan, who was attacked outside the grocery store that he owned with his brother.
“There are recent arrivals who are fearful, and there are people who are U.S.-born Muslims who are also are on edge,” said Michelle Melendez, director of the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. “The victims are everything from professionals to students to working-class people.”