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Albuquerque police arrest a suspect in murders of Muslim men

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. To New Mexico now, where police have arrested a suspect in the murders of four Muslim men. Albuquerque police say they have detained 51-year-old Muhammad Syed as he fled his home. He has been charged with two killings so far, and he's suspected of the others. Megan Kamerick of member station KUNM is with us now. She was at this evening's briefing with police. Welcome, Megan.

MEGAN KAMERICK, BYLINE: Thank you so much.

CHANG: OK. So what more have police said about the suspect, and how did they find him?

KAMERICK: They got more than 230 tips from the public that helped them. They had IDed a vehicle previously that was a - they said was linked to the killings - a Volkswagen sedan. The key tip apparently came from the Muslim community, but they did not give more detail than that.

CHANG: OK. And what have police said about a possible motive here? Like, did all of these men know each other?

KAMERICK: Well, they did say that there was an interpersonal dispute of some kind. They would not go into detail about that. Now, as you may know, reporting by The New York Times has indicated that perhaps the person who's being charged, Mr. Syed, is Sunni, and the others are Shiite. And he was upset about his daughter being married to a Shiite. But they would not confirm any of that or go into any of that detail.

CHANG: OK. Let's focus a little bit on the victims for a moment. Can you tell us just a bit more about each of them, to the extent that you know?

KAMERICK: The two that he has been charged with - Muhammad Afzaal Hussain is originally from Pakistan. He moved here to Albuquerque in 2017 to attend graduate school at the University of New Mexico. He was elected president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association. He got a master's degree in community and regional planning. He has been commuting to Espanola, which is nearly two hours away, every day for his job for the past year as the planning director for the city, and he was planning to move up there this weekend.

I will say his brother was at the briefing today with two - his two young children. And he talked to me a little bit - expressed great relief that this person was arrested and said he feels much safer now. His sons can now walk to school. The other victim was Aftab Hussein. There are four victims, but these are the two that this person has been charged with so far.

CHANG: Right.

KAMERICK: They moved from Afghanistan to New Mexico in 2015 and he was a busser for a local cafe, and he had siblings living in Pakistan and apparently had recently gotten engaged. He was working to get his passport so he could go to Pakistan and be married. And then the other two victims, they have not been charged yet. And last November - they're working to connect possibly these - Mohammad Ahmadi was 61. He was from Afghanistan. He and his brother fled to Pennsylvania in the 1980s before settling in Albuquerque in the 1990s. And they ran a halal market. That's where he was shot. The fourth victim was Naeem Hussain, and they have said he's from Pakistan, possibly Afghanistan originally. And he worked for a case manager for a refugee services agency. He was the latest one who was killed.

CHANG: That is Megan Kamerick of KUNM. Thank you so much, Megan.

KAMERICK: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Megan Kamerick