Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan arrested as prime suspect in serial killings of four Muslim men American state's Albuquerque city, police say.

Ambush-style shootings of men, who were of Pakistani or Afghan descent, have terrified Albuquerque's Muslim community.
Ambush-style shootings of men, who were of Pakistani or Afghan descent, have terrified Albuquerque's Muslim community. (AP)

New Mexico police have arrested a "prime suspect" believed to be involved in two of the four murders – all South Asian Muslim men – in Albuquerque over the past nine months, killings that have shaken the Islamic community in the US state's largest city.

Authorities on Tuesday charged 51-year-old Muhammad Syed in the killings of two Muslim men and he is suspected of slaying two others.

Police tracked down a vehicle of interest in their investigation of the murders, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina wrote on Twitter. 

"The driver was detained and he is our primary suspect for the murders," Medina wrote.

The latest killing involved a man who was gunned down on Friday night.

Albuquerque and state authorities have been working to provide an extra police presence at mosques during prayer times as the investigation proceeded in the city, home to as many as 5,000 Muslims out of a total population of 565,000.

The ambush-style shootings of the men, who were of Pakistani or Afghan descent, have terrified Albuquerque's Muslim community.

Families went into hiding in their homes and some Pakistani students at the University of New Mexico left town out of fear.

READ MORE: What do we know about the killings of four Muslims in New Mexico?

Muslim killings

The first of the killings occurred in November. Three other men were killed over the past two weeks.

Imtiaz Hussain, the brother of murdered city planning director Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, said news of the arrest reassured many in the Muslim community.

"My kids asked me, 'Can we sit on our balcony now?' and I said, 'Yes,' and they said, 'Can we go out and play now?' and I said, 'Yes,'" he said.

An official for the Islamic Center of New Mexico, Albuquerque's largest mosque that several of the murdered men attended, declined immediate comment.

Three of the victims were shot dead near Central Avenue in southeast Albuquerque. Naeem Hussain, 25, a truck driver who became a US citizen on July 8, was killed on Friday, hours after attending the burial of Afzaal Hussain, 27, and another victim, Aftab Hussein, 41. They were killed on August 1 and July 26, respectively.

Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, was killed on November 7, 2021, while smoking a cigarette outside the grocery store and cafe that he ran with his brother in the southeast part of the city.

When told about the arrest before the suspect’s identity was made public, Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain, brother of one of the victims, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, said he felt relieved but needed to know more about the assailant and the motive.

"This gives us hope that we will have (the) truth come out,” he said. “We need to know why."

President Joe Biden weighed in at the weekend, pledging unity and support.

"I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque," the US president said on Twitter. 

"While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims' families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America."

READ MORE: Türkiye condemns 'serial' killings of Muslims in US

Source: TRTWorld and agencies