Suspect in killings of Muslim men had history of violence

Muhammad Syed has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence and caught on camera slashing the tires of a woman’s car, records show.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — In the six years since he was resettled in the United States from Afghanistan, the prime suspect in the killing of four Muslim men in Albuquerque has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence and caught on camera hitting the tires of the car slashed open by a woman. according to police and court records.

The protracted pattern of violence – which began not long after Muhammad Syed’s arrival in the States – has shocked members of the city’s small, close-knit Muslim community, some of whom knew him from the local mosque and who initially assumed the killer was a man Outsiders with a bias against the Islamic religion. Now they come to terms with the fact that they never really understood the man.

“I think based on the fact that we know his story now – and we didn’t before – he’s obviously a disturbed person. He obviously has a violent tendency,” said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.

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Police say Syed, 51, was acquainted with his victims and was likely motivated by “interpersonal conflict”.

He was arrested on Monday evening and is in custody. Prosecutors say he is a dangerous man and plan to ask a judge next week to keep him jailed pending trial on murder charges related to two of the shooting deaths. Syed is also the prime suspect in the other two murders, but police say they will not rush him in those cases as long as he remains in prison and poses no threat to the community. The married father of six has denied involvement in the murders; His defense attorneys declined to comment.

Few details about Syed’s life have emerged before he and his family came to America in 2016, but a US government document seen by The Associated Press says he graduated from Rehman Baba High School in the West in 1990 Kabul made. Between 2010 and 2012 he worked as a cook for Al Bashar Jala Construction Company.

In December 2012, Syed fled Afghanistan with his wife and children, the report said. The family made their way to Pakistan, where Syed sought work as a refrigerator technician. A native Pashto speaker who is also fluent in Dari, he was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 2016.

According to court records, a friend of Syed’s daughter claimed the next year that Syed, his wife and one of Syed’s sons pulled him out of a car and punched and kicked him before driving away. The friend, who was found with a bloody nose, scratches and bruises, told police he was attacked because Syed, a Sunni Muslim, did not want his daughter to be in a relationship with a Shia.

In 2018, Syed was taken into custody after an argument with his wife about her driving. Syed told police his wife hit him in the car, but she said he pulled her hair, threw her on the ground and made her walk two hours to her destination.

Months later, Syed allegedly beat his wife and attacked one of his sons with a large slotted metal spoon, which court documents said left his hair drenched in blood. Syed’s wife told police everything was fine. But the son who called them told officers Syed regularly hit him and his mother.

Two of the cases were dropped after the wife and boyfriend declined to press charges. The third was released after Syed completed a pre-trial intervention program. In 2020, Syed was arrested after allegedly refusing to stop for police after running a traffic light, but that case was also eventually dismissed.

“If you’re trying to understand how violence develops in a particular person, you just need to know that last year they didn’t wake up and become a serial killer,” said former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole. “He had experience with violence. And that’s the law enforcement challenge…finding out what your experience was of violence and when it started?”

Syed told detectives that he served with the Afghan National Army’s Special Operations Command, a small elite group of Afghan soldiers who fought the Taliban. He said he likes the AK-47-style police guns found in his home for having used one in Afghanistan.

But the US government profile reviewed by the AP listed no military experience, and Syed turned 40 when the elite force was formed in 2011 — probably too old to be selected to fight in the heaviest combat.

“That sounds a bit lazy,” said Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, who has served on two tours of duty in Afghanistan and is a senior staffer and military expert at the Defense Priorities think tank. He said while Syed may have been a soldier, “Special forces are usually 22, 25 years old, maybe 30 because it’s so physically demanding.”

The Syed family lives in a small semi-detached house in the south of the city, a working-class area of ​​the city where many of the older houses and apartments have security bars on the doors and windows. The area has become a magnet for Afghan refugees and other immigrants seeking a new home in New Mexico’s largest city.

The killing of the four men — the first in November and the other three in rapid succession over less than two weeks in July and the first week of August — unleashed waves of terror in Albuquerque’s Muslim community of about 4,500. Residents were afraid to leave their homes – to the point where city officials offered to deliver meals – and some considered leaving town.

That’s what Syed told investigators as he departed in his Volkswagen Jetta on Sunday: Heading out of state to find a safer place for his frightened family.

Police say he actually left town after killing Naeem Hussain just days earlier.

Syed is the prime suspect – but has not been charged – in the death of Hussain, a 25-year-old Pakistani man who was fatally shot August 5 in the parking lot of a refugee resettlement agency in southeast Albuquerque; and the killing of Muhammad Zahir Ahmadi, a 62-year-old Afghan immigrant, who was fatally shot in the head behind the market he owned in town last November.

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Ahmadi is the brother-in-law of the woman whose tire Syed slashed in 2020, while Syed and Hussain have known each other since 2016, police said.

Syed was charged with the murders of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. Hussein, 41, was killed on the night of July 26 after parking his car in the usual spot near his home. Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old urban planner who had been working on a New Mexico congresswoman’s campaign, was gunned down on his evening stroll on the night of August 1.

While Syed told police he recognized Hussein from parties in the community, it was unclear how he knew Afzaal Hussain.

Despite the violence he allegedly inflicted on his wife and children, Syed’s family stands by him.

“My father is not someone who can kill anyone” his daughter recently told CNNwho did not reveal her identity to protect her safety. “My father always talked about peace. That’s why we’re here in the United States. We came from Afghanistan, from fighting, from shooting.” Suspect in killings of Muslim men had history of violence

Laura Coffey

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