Afghan Muslim, suspect in killing 3 Pakistanis & 1 Afghan, makes first court appearance

Afghan Muslim, suspect in killing 3 Pakistanis & 1 Afghan, makes first court appearance

WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (APP): The Afghan Muslim man, who is a primary suspect in a string of killings, including 3 Pakistanis, in Albuquerque, a city in the southern US state of New Mexico, faced a judge for the first time Wednesday and was ordered held until an upcoming detention hearing, according to media reports.

Muhammad Syed, 51, made a court appearance virtually (via Zoom) and was told he’s being charged with the murders of 41-year-old Aftab Hussein, killed on July 26, and 27-year-old Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, slain on Aug. 1– both Pakistanis. He was also called a suspect by police in the two other slayings of Naeem Hussain, another Pakistani, and Mohammad Ahmadi, an Afghan.

“The state believes at this time there are no conditions that would keep the community safe with Mr. Syed’s release,” Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney Joshua Boone told the court.

A detention hearing in Syed’s case was set for Monday, a court spokeswoman said.

Syed was arrested Tuesday following tips from the public, authorities said. He was stopped by police while driving near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, more than 100 miles east of Albuquerque.

Authorities found firearms during a search of his home, as well as information showing Syed may have known the victims “to some extent” and that “interpersonal” conflict may have led to the killings, police said Tuesday.

One of the firearms recovered has been linked to bullet casings found at the scenes of two of the killings, while casings for a handgun found in his car when he was stopped were linked to one of the scenes, according to the arrest affidavit.

Syed told police “he was driving to Texas to find a new place for his family to live because the situation in Albuquerque was bad,” referring to the killing of Muslim men, the affidavit said.

On Wednesday, Syed, the primary suspect, heard proceedings through a Pashto interpreter and initially asked to address the court. But he eventually accepted the advice of defence lawyer Megan Mitsunaga and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Renee Torres to remain silent.

“OK, sounds good,” Syed said. “Yes, your honour whatever you guys think is the right thing sounds good.”

“The tipsters who called in stated that Muhammad (Syed) was the shooter in the homicides of Muslim men in Albuquerque,” the complaint continued. “The tips also provided a vehicle, a gray Volkswagen sedan, as the vehicle driven by Muhammad (Syed).”

After he was taken into custody by police, Syed told investigators he was headed to Houston “to find a new place for his family to live because the situation in Albuquerque was bad,” the complaint read.

“Muhammad (Syed) denied having any involvement in the murders this this case,” according to the court document.

In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, the brother of victim Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, said he didn’t immediately recognize the suspect’s name.

But when he saw Syed’s photo, the brother realized he had seen him at the local Islamic Center sometime in April.

Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain recalled that they chatted briefly during an Eid ul-Fitr gathering. He recalled Syed struggled with English and said the suspect didn’t immediately strike him as a “hostile person.”

Syed seemed like a “family man,” the victim’s brother said, because he appeared to have a few children around him.

Meanwhile, the terrified Muslim community is now in a state of shock as the killer, who was targeting Muslims, is a Muslim himself.